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Microsoft Teams Dances into Global Wireless with Tango Networks

Today, Tango Networks announced Tango Extend. It is a big announcement from a small company. Tango Extend is about to up-end the global UCaaS market. It is the latest, arguably biggest, iteration of UCaaS Mobility 3.0 (UCM3). As I wrote in "The Convergence and Evolution of Enterprise Calling," I’ve grouped the evolution of UC/UCaaS and mobility into three stages. The first stage was largely accomplished with creative call forwarding; the second generation of UC/UCaaS mobility relied on smartphone apps. The third stage – UCM3 – puts the UCaaS number natively on the cell phone and essentially combines cellular and UCaaS into a single solution.

This past January, when I wrote, "UCaaS and Cellular Together in Perfect Harmony," I explained how with Verizon becoming the first U.S. operator to launch Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile brings the first major carrier UCM3 solution on Teams in the US:

This generation of UCaaS mobility blurs UCaaS and cellular services. It’s not that Verizon and Microsoft have merged, but they have converged their offerings into a single solution. Unlike the second generation of UCaaS mobility, available today from most UCaaS providers, this new approach requires neither smartphone app nor the use of an internet connection. 

And with today's news about Tango Extend, UCM3 is going global.

Remember: the concept behind UCaaS Mobility 3.0 is the convergence of cellular mobility and UCaaS. It’s essentially a version of fixed mobile convergence (FMC), but FMC pertains to all kinds of wireless and ground solutions including Wi-Fi and PBX systems. UCM3 specifically refers to UCaaS with native cellular services.

The major benefits of UCM3 include a single solution for all enterprise numbers, the ability to reduce providers, expanding UCaaS to mobile users without requiring an app, and providing mobile users a higher quality of service than over-the-top applications can provide. Additionally, it allows administrators to manage softphones to smartphones from a single Teams administrative screen.

Today's Domestic UCM3 Options

In the US, UCM3 solutions are available from Cisco Webex (Webex Go and AT&T), Microsoft Teams (Verizon Teams Mobile), and RingCentral (AT&T Office@Hand). Additional offers are available overseas. These three providers implement UCM3 convergence in different ways.

Microsoft’s Teams solution involves a direct back-end integration between Microsoft Teams and the cellular network. In the US, Teams is integrated with Verizon, and Microsoft has integrated with other cellular providers in other markets. Enterprises contract with both Microsoft and Verizon, but the integrated solutions are managed as one.  

RingCentral took a different approach that leverages its modular architecture. It allows cellular providers, such as AT&T, to use their native voice infrastructure with the RingCentral suite of services. The integration essentially creates a mobile-first implementation of RingCentral UCaaS that includes calling, meetings, messaging, and more.

Cisco’s Webex Go has two models. The recently announced solution with AT&T is similar to what Microsoft offers with Verizon. Enterprise customers contract with both firms to create a UCM3 solution. The original Webex Go model created the Webex cellular network. “Webex” is displayed on the phone as the cellular provider, and positions Webex as a single provider for an organization’s cellular, UCaaS, meetings, messaging, contact center, and events — potentially globally.

No, Cisco did not build a cellular network. It built what is known as a virtual mobile network, and Cisco Webex is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). An MVNO is conceptually similar to a Mobile Network Operator (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and DISH). Popular MVNOs include Boost, Mint Mobile, Visible, Cricket, and Google Fi.

There are advantages to obtaining cellular service from either MNOs or MVNOs. The MNO is the primary operator and is usually a familiar brand. However, they are inherently regional. For example, a Teams customer with users in the US and Canada interested in mobility will likely supplement their Microsoft licensing with Teams Mobile Phones from Verizon and Rogers.

MVNOs tend to operate in more countries and can be sold through more partners. For example, Webex Go can be sold by most Cisco Webex partners, whereas Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile is sold by the carrier and its partners. 

Tango Is Expands Teams UCM3 Internationally

Tango Extend leverages Teams SIP Gateways to integrate Tango and Teams. Tango is positioned as a gateway for direct routing partners, so they can become MVNOs that add UCM3 capabilities to Microsoft Teams.

The first operator to implement Tango Extend is NTT, a key strategic global partner for Microsoft that was previously described by Microsoft CVP Jared Spataro as a “forward-thinking collaborator” for Operator Connect. Today, NTT’s website says it offers full PSTN replacement to Microsoft Teams customers in 39 countries. Today’s news means that soon NTT will be able to supplement its calling services with seamlessly integrated cellular services.

The solution will enable NTT customers to assign telephone numbers to any type of Teams endpoint including cellular phones. Enterprise DID numbers can become native cellular numbers, with or without the Teams mobile app. It’s conceptually similar to Teams Phone Mobile, but takes a land-line first approach. With Verizon Teams Mobile, enterprises can bring cell phone numbers to Teams. With NTT/Tango, users can bring their work DID numbers to mobile.

In either case, these UCM3 solutions expand the reach of Teams to a higher percentage of an enterprise’s workforce, including frontline workers in retail, delivery, transportation, and in-home services. It also better positions Teams Chat as an enterprise-wide solution, even for those that don’t have a company phone.

Microsoft estimates that the frontline workforce is nearly 2 billion people worldwide, and this group is largely neglected by most UCaaS solutions. Tango Extend opens cellular to Direct Routing partners as well as their partners such as global solution resellers and other Microsoft partners. It effectively positions these partners to serve more employees, more roles, more locations, and more nations. From the announcement, it seems NTT will offer the service in many countries using local or international DIDs.

The solution can work with dedicated cell phones or as a second line in a BYOD setup that uses e-sims. Most cell phones today support multiple sims and carriers. This approach allows employees to use their personal cell phone for work while separating their work-related usage, telephone number, and costs. Calls made on the work side of the phone are logged in Teams, but personal calls are not.

While Microsoft has integrated with several MNOs, Tango Networks is the first to enable Teams with an MVNO model. There may not be many more MVNO enablers as Tango claims that Extend uses over 100 of its patents. Tango intends to enable many more of Microsoft's partners that offer Direct Routing.

Though Tango’s solution will roam in over 200 countries, each MNVO must launch a home service in specific countries for local numbers to be used. NTT will likely launch in the US and UK and expand from there.

UCM3 solutions allow a single UCaaS provider to seamlessly support communications for work-from-anywhere programs, remote workers and employees working from home, distributed teams, deskless employees, and workers on the go. At this time, only Microsoft and Cisco offer both MVNO and MNO approaches solutions that enable UCM3.


Dave Michels is a contributing editor and Analyst at TalkingPointz.