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Operator Connect vs Direct Routing

– Written by Helen Johnstone

Hi, today I am joined by Pardeep and Mark, and we’re going to talk about Operator Connect versus Direct Routing, and understand the differences.

Pardeep, do you want to kick off with how is Operator Connect different from Direct Routing as a Service?

Thanks, Helen, thanks for having me and Mark on today. Yeah, so there are two major differences between Direct Routing and Operator Connect. So, one, Direct Routing really can be delivered by any partner, whereas Operator Connect is limited to those Service Providers that have jurisdiction to issue phone numbers. So that’s the first major difference. But from there, there are some differences with how things are delivered. So, with Operator Connect, the Service Provider that’s delivering the service does need to have data centre peering with Microsoft. So that lends itself to a much more performant solution. The other major difference is with Direct Routing, there is a manual process to assign phone numbers to Teams users so that they have Teams voice, whereas in Operator Connect that’s automated, so number allocation to a Team’s tenant happens through the program. And that’s really the major differences between the two.

Mark, can you elaborate on what is required to meet Operator Connect?

I think the big consideration, well it’s not big but it’s a material consideration is what Pardeep mentioned around data centre peering to Microsoft. So, one of the criteria is that the voice traffic mustn’t go over the general internet. So, it must go through a very controlled circuit. And that means having a direct network peering connection between you as the operator and Microsoft. And they specify either that has to be a thing called MAPs, which is Microsoft Azure Peering, so that’s a network-to-network connection to Microsoft, with an unlimited amount of data, it’s done very much at the data centre level.

There’s also ExpressRoute, which is the kind of more entry-level. Really that’s been around for several years now, express route MAPs is relatively new compared to ExpressRoute. But we have the ability to use ExpressRoute as an option for operators that want to start off from a lower cost base, for example, because MAPs can be somewhat expensive to implement, and also time-consuming as well. So, it takes a long time to get MAPs connection all set up and running and do all the peering and everything, whereas ExpressRoute can be done in a couple of weeks. So for many of the operators who don’t know how much success it is going to be yet, we’re sure it’s going to be extremely successful, but ExpressRoute is a good way of getting them onto the network, complying with that network interface requirements, and then see how it grows. Because they can switch from ExpressRoute to MAPs at a later date. So that is a possibility. It’s just a network connection. So you can easily swing that through a different route, so yeah, that’s one of the main criteria.

The second thing operators need is some qualified personnel, because they’re going to be supporting Teams users now, so it may be new to them, so they need some form of Teams expertise in the business. Microsoft have some criteria around what qualifications they’d like to see. So those should be looked at.  They will need to have three or four qualified heads in the business to support Teams users. So that enables them to consult and also build a Teams practice but also give proper first-line support to customers since they are now supplying effectively their Teams calling experience.

And so you have Operator Connect what maybe some Carriers would be asking, can they not just set up Direct Routing as a service?

Direct routing is a good option still, and for many of the more interesting scenarios, which customers often ask for then Direct Routing is the only option.  Operator Connect can’t do everything. So, I think actually, I’ll pass over the Pardeep to give some of the anecdotes of our existing partners on how they are using Direct Routing as an option.

Yeah, thanks, Mark. Yeah, I mean, with our core offering with Call2Teams, we’ve been, you know, running Direct Routing for many years now. And one of the things we have to keep in mind is this comes down to the customer and the delivery partner. And what I mean by that is not all partners are Carriers, so that does limit the capability of delivering Operator Connect. But even for some of those Carriers, they’re going to have potential customers with distributed networks in geographies they don’t serve. And so one of the ways around that is to configure Direct Routing.

The other consideration from the customer’s perspective is what’s the call workflow that they’re looking for? Do they have an existing infrastructure in place like a UCaaS or PBX system that they want to integrate with, and that’s still, Direct Routing is the key way to make that integration work. So, it really comes down to the customer, in fact, there is a scenario where both Direct Routing and Operator Connect co-exist. In fact, Microsoft has an API to port users from Direct Routing to Operator Connect if and when that is needed.

Okay, thank you very much, everybody. It’s been very informative.

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