PSTN Calling Re-Emerges for Lync Online
Microsoft takes another shot at making PSTN calling and telephony features available to businesses subscribing to Office 365 and Lync Online.
Nearly a year ago Microsoft detailed its latest plan to re-introduce PSTN calling to Lync Online. This plan involves telco partners launching services that let Office 365 and Lync Online customers place and receive calls to regular phone numbers, as well as get access to some basic call features. Microsoft identified AT&T, KPN, Telenor, and Vodafone as providers that would offer the capability before long.
I don't know about you, but I'm not getting a lot of calls on my landline from Lync Online users. And the Lync Online client on my desktop remains stubbornly dialpad-free. So what gives? Where do things stand with connecting Lync Online users to the PSTN?
I reached out to each of the carrier partners to find out. The short story is that three of the four have in fact made the capability, commonly called "Lync-to-phone," available to their Office 365 and Lync Online customers, while the final one is in the process of doing so. Only one, however, offers service in the U.S.
The medium-length story is that two of the services integrate Lync Online with the carrier's mobile network, and because those networks are IMS-based many of the calling features are provided from the carrier's cloud. The other two services -- including one that AT&T quietly released in the past few weeks (more on that on Page 3) -- integrate Lync Online with the provider's standard telephone service, and most of the calling features are powered by Lync Online itself.
As for the long story, here are the details on how AT&T, KPN, Telenor, and Vodafone are each bringing Lync Online with PSTN calling to market.
Vodafone One Net Collaboration
Vodafone has had PSTN calling for Lync Online for a year or two already. Until recently it was only available in Spain, where the carrier regularly tries out new services. But last summer Vodafone began offering the service in the U.K. as well. The service, branded as Vodafone One Net Collaboration, integrates Office 365 and One Net Business, the carrier's IMS-based communications primarily for SMBs but with uptake from a number of large enterprise subscribers as well. With Vodafone One Net Collaboration users can click to call any mobile or landline number directly from their Lync Online client, as well as from Outlook email, contacts, or calendar. Users can transfer a call that comes in via Lync to any PSTN number, and users communicating with each other via Lync can conference in additional participants joining from landlines or mobile connections.
Incoming calls from the PSTN simultaneously ring the user's mobile and/or desk phone and the Lync client, since the same Vodafone One Net number is associated with both the One Net phones and the user's Lync Online account. However, simultaneous ringing does not extend to those Lync-to-Lync calls that do not involve phone numbers. That is, such calls will ring the Lync client, but not the mobile or desk phone associated with the One Net account.
"What happens in Lync stays in Lync, as long as phone numbers are not involved," explained Marco Lozza, the UC product manager who was manning the Lync-to-phone demo at Vodafone's recent analyst conference.
- Calls to PSTN numbers initiated from Lync display the user's Vodafone One Net number on the called party's caller ID.
- The user's presence state changes when a call is placed from Lync to the PSTN since Lync recognizes that a call is being placed regardless of whether it's Lync-to-Lync or Lync-to-PSTN. However, calls placed using a mobile device or desk phone do not change the end user's presence state if the Lync mobile client is not used to initiate the call.
- A "call toggle" featured powered by Vodafone's IMS network can seamlessly transfer a call in progress from a Lync client on the user's PC to her mobile device with call continuity (that is, without the other party having to listen to ring tones or announcements). The Lync client doesn't include a special icon for Vodafone's call toggle feature. Rather, the user clicks on the transfer dropdown menu and picks one of her own numbers from the list of configured devices. This rings the user's mobile device and when she picks up, the call is transferred to the mobile device and terminated on the Lync client.
To get PSTN calling for Lync Online from Vodafone, a customer must:
- Subscribe to Office 365 or Lync Online Dedicated from Vodafone. If the customer already has Lync Online from another Microsoft partner or from Microsoft itself, the account must be transferred to Vodafone.
- Subscribe to Vodafone One Net Business in the U.K. (around 11 to 30 pounds sterling ($15 to $45) per month depending on plan and contract period), or either One Net Business or One Net Express in Spain.
- Subscribe to Vodafone One Net Collaboration, which links Office 365 to One Net Business and Express. This costs 4 pounds sterling/€5 ($6) per user per month, which includes the incremental license that Microsoft charges for Lync Online PSTN calling.
Vodafone says it has thousands of customers using its Lync-to-phone service, mainly in Spain where it's been available for more than a year.
Read more inside:
- Page 2: Telenor and KPN offerings
- Page 3: AT&T's service and Lync Online Plan 3