Microsoft Teams Operator Connect – Where Do You Start?

So, you’ve deployed Microsoft Teams. Your organization and its employees are using it to more effectively communicate across different locations, time zones, and even languages. With one user experience for chats and meetings, end users are making faster and more informed decisions.

Now, you’re considering deploying the Microsoft Teams Phone System for calling. Where do you start?

It’s an incredibly powerful and feature rich solution, but it has lots of options and you’ll need to make a number of key decisions before getting started. One of the biggest decisions is which PSTN option to use. Microsoft offers three options:

  1. Microsoft Teams Calling Plans
  2. Direct Routing
  3. Operator Connect

Which one do you use? Well, as with most things, that depends. Let’s dive into each option.

Microsoft Teams Calling Plans

Microsoft Calling Teams Plans are super easy and here are the main things you need to know:

  • They provide a quick and simple way to deploy calling in Microsoft Teams with no additional equipment.
  • You buy and assign phone numbers for end users right from the Teams Admin Center in a matter of minutes.
  • Calling plans are priced on a per user basis, with a certain amount of minutes usage. While this makes things easy, costs can easily get out of hand for larger deployments.

Calling plans are really only practical for small deployments. Also, they’re not provided for every country, so you’ll need to ensure that the countries you require are supported.

Direct Routing

Direct Routing (DR) is not super easy, but it is super flexible because its similar to how you connect a PBX to the PSTN.

  1. You, the enterprise, procure a SIP trunk from a service provider (SP).
  2. Provide a session border controller (SBC) to connect it to.
  3. Then configure Microsoft Teams to use the SIP trunk to make and receive calls.

You can leverage existing SP contracts for phone numbers and minutes, provide PSTN connectivity for multiple countries by interconnecting different SPs, and interwork your existing solutions (e.g. PBXs and contact centers) with the Microsoft Teams Phone System.

Oftentimes for larger and more complex enterprises, this can be overwhelming. In these cases, many enterprises decide to outsource the design, deployment, and management of DR to a SP or value-added reseller.

Operator Connect

Operator Connect (OC) is sort of in between Calling Plans and DR. Microsoft has partnered with a number of leading SPs to provide tighter integration between an SP’s SIP trunking services and the Microsoft Teams Phone System.

  • Like DR, you’ll buy phone numbers and minutes from a selected SP.
  • A SIP trunk and SBC are also required, but instead of being managed by you, these components are managed by the SP with their service level agreements.
  • Microsoft enables the SP to embed the provisioning and management of phone numbers within the Teams Admin Center.
    • These capabilities of OC make it much easier to deploy and manage versus DR.
  • The only downside is that you don’t have the ability to interwork existing PBX or contact center equipment, and you’re limited to the SP footprint supported by Microsoft. 


  • So, unless you’re a small business or you have a small deployment, Microsoft Teams Calling Plans isn’t for you.
    • At around $15 per user per month for a phone number and 3,000 minutes, the economics simply don’t work for larger deployments (e.g. 100 seats x $15 = $1,500 per month), and you don’t get the economies of scale for sharing minutes across the user base.
  • For larger deployments, say 100 seats are greater, you then have to decide between DR and OC. With the deeper integration between the SP and Microsoft Teams provided by Operator Connect, you should always try to use it if possible.

Next Blog: Is Operator Connect Right for You?
In our next post, we’ll outline the key considerations for determining whether or not Operator Connect works for your requirements, environment, and business needs.

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