Why Do Third-Party Telephony Solutions for Teams Lead the Market?

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Microsoft Teams is now the collaboration application of choice for many businesses, especially those with remote teams or hybrid working policies in place. However, a recent report by the Cavell Group found that more than 80% of Microsoft Teams users who have telephony enabled, use third-party solutions rather than Teams’ in-built telephony. We’re going to share some more insights from this report to explain why that is. 

Why choose a third-party phone solution for Microsoft Teams?

Is telephony still that important?

With all the talk of video, messaging, and other digital channels, you would be forgiven for thinking that the humble phone call might have had its day – but not so. In their research, Cavell found that 92% of businesses still use phone, and alongside email, it’s their most popular communication channel for both internal and external communication. Our own research with Ipsos supports this too.

What are the telephony options in Teams?

Teams provides many communication and collaboration methods, but telephony isn’t included in most Teams packages. If you want to enable it, there are several ways to do it.

1. Microsoft Calling Plans

You can choose to purchase Microsoft Phone System licences (included with E5 licences) along with Calling Plans, which includes a phone number and a bundle of domestic or international minutes. This route adds simple telephony functions into Microsoft Teams, with Microsoft providing the entire service end to end. 

2. Direct routing with a third party

Organisations can connect Teams to a third-party telephony provider for an enterprise-grade, high performance solution. It will connect your Teams and Microsoft 365 deployment to the PSTN networks, allowing users to make and receive external phone calls from anywhere on any device running natively in the Teams application.

3. Operator Connect

Microsoft’s Operator Connect lets you use phone numbers and telephony services directly from a third-party carrier, from within the Teams Admin Centre. There are about 60 operators in the programme. From a technical perspective, it’s simpler than Direct Routing – it gives you the flexibility and convenience of managing everything in your tenant so you don’t need to configure new solutions to connect to your environment, as you do with Direct Routing. Instead, it’s the operator’s responsibility to connect you to the right services.  

4. Third-party application

The final option is using a unified communications provider to enable telephony in Teams. It’s the simplest option to set up because the third party does all the heavy technical work for you. It’s also the only option you don’t need a Microsoft Phone System licence for, so it can save you money. 

Businessman in wheelchair at the desk in his office.

If you use Operator Connect or Microsoft Calling Plans to enable telephony, you must use the Microsoft Phone System for each user’s PBX call control. But as the Cavell report highlights, Microsoft’s phone system has some limitations. Third-party telephony providers can usually offer: 

  • More experience: Cavell highlights the fact that Microsoft is a relatively new player in the telecoms field and while it’s been working hard to catch-up, organisations often prefer to work with a more experienced telecoms specialist.
  • More advanced PBX features: Microsoft’s phone system doesn’t include some basic PBX features, such as hunt groups, call flows, caller ID management, caller barring and call reporting. This may be why 12% of organisations who use Microsoft’s phone system don’t feel it meets their needs.
  • Greater reliability: Microsoft offers a 99.99% uptime SLA (an hour’s downtime per user per year) for Calling Plans, Phone System, and Audio Conferencing but only a 99.9% uptime SLA (nine hours downtime per user per year) for its core service: Presence, Chat Messaging, and Online Meetings. RingCentral on the other hand offers the industry’s highest standard uptime SLA of 99.999%. That’s less than six minutes of downtime per user per year.
  • Lower costs: Microsoft’s phone system can seem expensive when compared with third-party integrations – especially if you have more than five users.
  • Larger global footprint: Microsoft only offers full carrier capabilities in 33 countries. In comparison, RingCentral is available in over 46 countries.
  • Better analytics: The Cavell Group found that Microsoft’s analytics were “confusing and troublesome to manage”, “weaker than average when it comes to diagnosing issues”, and “missing telephony data for line of business leaders”. 
  • Easier integrations: Third-party providers often make it easy to integrate say a CRM or contact centre solution with their telephony. Integrating these systems into Teams is tricky, which means you could miss out on a productivity boost.

For more information, download the full report for free

RingCentral for Microsoft Teams

The RingCentral for Microsoft Teams integration enables you to bring reliable, enterprise-grade telephony into your Teams experience, without the need for a Teams phone licence. It offers benefits such as advanced calling features, a gold-standard uptime guarantee, coverage in 46 countries, and robust analytics that provides complete visibility into all your voice communications in Teams. RingCentral has been developing cloud telephony technology for 20+ years and has been recognised as a worldwide Gartner UCaaS Magic Quadrant Leader for eight years running.

Originally published Oct 30, 2023, updated Nov 29, 2023


Samantha is RingCentral’s Content Manager for EMEA Marketing. Before joining the business, she worked in content and public relations roles. She has worked with companies in ed tech, marketing and advertising, connected home, telecoms and publishing.

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