MS Teams Calling Plan vs Direct Routing (2021)

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Last year, Microsoft Teams became increasingly popular as a phone system platform, and the trend is expected to continue in 2021. Even though Microsoft Calling Plans introduced cloud telephony to Teams, experts predict that 90% of enterprises will choose Direct Routing over Calling Plans by 2022. Exactly why do business leaders consistently prefer Direct Routing over Calling Plans?

Teams, Microsoft's workplace collaboration platform, took the world by storm in 2020 and is still doing so today. With two cloud telephony options within Teams -- Calling Plans and Direct Routing -- Teams became the right solution at the right time as companies adopted virtual communications for remote work in 2020. Teams is more than just a place to chat and share files internally. The Teams virtual phone system is one of the most popular virtual phone solutions available for companies of all sizes, and optimizing Teams for business phone needs is a top priority for business leaders.

What are some of the ways organizations are utilizing Microsoft Teams as a business phone solution? One reason is that they increasingly prefer Direct Routing over Calling Plans. According to industry analysts, 90% of enterprises using Teams telephony will use Direct Routing by 2022. What are the advantages of Direct Routing over calling plans? Since you are reading this article, you probably have already implemented MS Teams or are in the process of doing so. Discover your Business Voice options in Teams and why companies are increasingly choosing Direct Routing.

Business Voice Options for MS Teams

To use Teams for external calls, you must connect your Microsoft Phone System to the public telephony network (PSTN). It is possible to either configure Teams Calling Plans or set up Direct Routing, which you can do with any direct routing provider.

Calling Plans

Microsoft Teams users can make internal calls to other team members, but your Microsoft Phone System must be connected to the PSTN network before you can use Teams for external calling.

First, Microsoft Teams can be connected to the PSTN network via a cloud-based calling plan, also known as Microsoft business voice. If you choose a Teams Calling Plan, Microsoft acts as your PSTN carrier for all internal and external calls. Teams Calling Plans include a phone number for inbound calls and a pool of minutes for outbound calls. Each user pays per month for their calling plan. Microsoft offers Domestic Calling Plans or Domestic and International Calling Plans.

Despite the fact that these calling plans are a quick and easy way for smaller firms to connect to the PSTN network, there are some drawbacks in terms of coverage, cost, and support.

Microsoft Teams offers business voice bundles called Calling Plans. These services include a user's phone number and a package of minutes for calls.

ms teams calling plan vs direct routing

Direct Routing

As an alternative to Microsoft's Calling Plan, Direct Routing allows you to connect your own carrier(s) to your Microsoft Phone System. Direct Routing allows your Teams Phone System to be directly connected to the PSTN via SIP trunking with your preferred carrier. Direct Routing enables users to make external calls from anywhere with an internet connection, similar to Calling Plans.

With Direct Routing, companies can choose voice plans from other carriers to use with Teams. In contrast to Microsoft's Calling Plans, Direct Routing opens up a world of options for your voice plan.

Direct Routing vs Calling Plans in Teams

Microsoft receives more revenue from Calling Plans as more organizations use them. Then why does Microsoft offer Direct Routing as an alternative to Calling Plans? It's simple. For smaller companies with light calling requirements, Calling Plans work well. However, most organizations require more advanced voice features and service-level agreements to meet their communication needs. Teams wouldn't be a viable option for many of Microsoft's existing customers if it didn't allow connections to dedicated voice services.

What are the differences between Calling Plans and Direct Routing in Teams? Here are the top reasons companies prefer one over the other.

Business Voice Features & Analytics

Among Microsoft's Business Voice features are domestic calling plans with 3,000 minutes per user, voice conferencing for up to 250 people, remote telephony with Teams, and a set of standard cloud phone system features. The standard phone system includes features such as call transfer, multilevel auto attendant, and call queues.

The features included in Direct Routing depend on your carrier agreement since Direct Routing is simply a connection with your own voice service. In other words, Direct Routing is your path to any type of voice solution you need to accomplish your goals with MS Teams.

Direct Routing with our partner AVOXI, for example, offers standard voice features along with advanced call routing, call recording, local caller ID, detailed analytics, and many more services not included in Teams Calling Plans.


International Dialing & Caller ID in Teams

When using Teams' Calling Plans, international calls can be tricky. Outbound calls to virtually any country are possible, but the quality is inconsistent and outbound caller ID is rarely guaranteed. Poor voice quality during business calls is frustrating for customers and agents alike, and good luck trying to get international customers or prospects to pick up the phone without local caller ID options!

Direct Routing is usually preferred by companies that frequently make or receive international calls. The benefits of Direct Routing with a carrier that specializes in international calling include local caller ID in the regions your team calls most often. Services like AVOXI TrueLocal numbers allow Teams Phone System users like you to take advantage of local caller ID in massive markets like Australia, China, Japan, South Africa, the UK, and so many more! See how to use local caller ID during outbound calls in Teams →

Calling Plan Countries & Virtual Phone Number Options

One of the most common complaints about Teams Calling Plans you see online is the lack of virtual phone numbers available for inbound calls. While international Calling Plans allow Teams users to make outbound calls around the world, you can only set up international virtual numbers for inbound calls in Calling Plan countries. The narrow range of number types available in Calling Plan countries is another reason cited by growing and established companies that choose Direct Routing.

Microsoft offers Calling Plans in 26 countries: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic (Czechia), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the US.

Third-party Calling Plans are also available for Australia and Japan. Teams also allows you to configure toll free numbers in a handful of countries, which they call “service numbers.”

So for businesses with small-to-moderate international calling needs within a handful of countries, Teams Calling Plans do provide some flexibility. Organizations that need a larger coverage area and/or superior voice services within those regions opt for a Direct Routing provider that specializes in such services, like our partner AVOXI. Direct routing with us allows admins within Teams to provision virtual phone numbers from 170+ countries with just a couple of clicks. That includes local, toll free, and non-geographic numbers available in most countries where such number types exist. Learn more about provisioning virtual phone numbers from 170+ countries in Teams →


Cost of Calling Plans vs Direct Routing

Companies that opt for Direct Routing in Teams sometimes expect higher telephony costs as the tradeoff for improved call quality and a more advanced set of voice features. In reality, Direct Routing costs less than Calling Plans in most cases. At least, that’s what we find for most companies that set up Direct Routing with us.

Organizations of all sizes are likely to enjoy lower rates with a third-party provider than with Microsoft’s Calling Plans. That’s because having one contract rather than separate contracts for each regional carrier allows organizations to achieve economies of scale. Using one global provider with a centralized pool of call minutes allows enterprises to eliminate wasted minutes or avoid topping up maxed out individual accounts.

At the end of the day, Microsoft has made it clear that they aren't trying to become major player in the telecom game. That's why Direct Routing exists, after all. Microsoft is happy to concede cloud telephony services to Direct Routing partners while they focus on the collaboration features and applications that make Teams the popular platform it is.

Implementation, Configuration, & Ongoing Support

Another common issue with Calling Plans is the level of support offered by Microsoft. While Teams users have access to 24/7 support, that’s a small part of the equation. The telecom industry is complicated, and while nobody wants to be troubleshooting issues with call quality, it's a lot easier (and less likely to occur) when you work with a dedicated Direct Routing partner.

Microsoft is not trying to become a major player in telecom solutions. If you’re experiencing a genuine network issue with a Calling Plan, the odds of reaching someone at Microsoft who can diagnose the problem and help you right then and there are slim.
You’re less likely to experience such issues with a dedicated Direct Routing partner. But if you do, you’re more likely to reach someone who can help you right then and there when you report it. On top of that, a Direct Routing partner that is also a Microsoft certified SBC provider can guide you through implementation, provide ongoing training, and triple check each step of your configuration to ensure things go smoothly.

Finally, a managed service provider can offer additional support and expertise to plan the migration and get employees up-to-speed with Microsoft Teams. While Microsoft has resources for implementing its Calling Plans, it’s very much a do-it-yourself solution. That’s why Direct Routing, though it may sound more complicated, is often easier to implement with support from a provider that already has a Microsoft-certified SBC solution in place.

Pro Tip: Choose a Direct Routing Partner That Makes It Easy

Why should you consider getting an SBC to use with Teams? Direct Routing is meant to be a simple, straightforward alternative to Teams Calling Plans. So if you're in the market for a Direct Routing provider and aren't sure what to expect for implementation, here's a pro tip from us: Choose a Direct Routing partner that makes your job easy. That means choosing a provider that manages your SBC configuration, walks through each step of implementation with you, and offers 24/7/365 support on top of delivering the world-class voice service your business deserves.

Discover How Easy Direct Routing Can Be

Don’t settle for the narrow country coverage, limited voice features, or expensive call rates that come with Microsoft Calling Plans. Direct routing unifies your Teams phone system with AVOXI’s world-class voice network. Provision virtual phone numbers from 170+ countries instead of 28. Configure advanced call routing rules, manage call recordings, set up local caller ID, and take advantage of many more advanced voice features within Teams.

No setup fees, no minimum contract. Just exceptional voice service with 24/7/365 dedicated support.