Microsoft s launch of PSTN Calling presents challenges and opportunities for operators

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1 Microsoft s launch of PSTN Calling presents challenges and opportunities for operators Publication Date: 04 Dec 2015 Product code: TE Brian Riggs

2 Ovum view Summary Microsoft has enhanced Office 365 to include business-grade communications capabilities previously lacking in the SaaS-based office productivity service. The UC enhancements were announced earlier this year, but pricing details were not previously available, nor were the new capabilities generally available. Microsoft has now made pricing details public and has made PSTN Calling a regulated telecoms service generally available to Office 365 subscribers in the US. Availability in Western Europe is set for Combined with the new Cloud PBX feature set, PSTN Calling will challenge the many service providers reselling Office 365. On the one hand, it provides some new upsell opportunities, allowing providers to upgrade enterprise customers to which they have already sold Office 365. However, this will only be the case when Microsoft makes PSTN Calling available to partners to resell. For now, businesses can only purchase it direct from Microsoft. PSTN Calling is ultimately a Microsoft-delivered service that competes with business communications services that operators and other providers independently sell to businesses. As such, Microsoft will be in greater competition with its telco partners. Microsoft delivers regulated telecoms services for businesses Microsoft has added four major UC-related capabilities to Office 365: Meeting Broadcast, PSTN Conferencing, Cloud PBX, and PSTN Calling. Meeting Broadcast is a cloud-based service (running in Azure) that lets Office 365 customers set up live or recorded webinars for up to 10,000 participants. PSTN Conferencing is a dial-in audio conferencing service previously lacking in Office 365. Cloud PBX is a set of telephony features that were similarly lacking in Office 365 previously. Skype for Business Online was not originally designed to serve as an alternative to traditional voice services or platforms. Cloud PBX features include: call hold, forward, transfer, blocking, history, and delegation team calling distinctive ringing caller ID voic music on hold simultaneous ringing (incoming calls ring multiple devices) device switching (transfer call in progress to mobile) enterprise calendar call routing (route calls based on time of day or when in meetings) desk phone support (devices from Polycom, HP, and Mitel) Skype and federated calling. Each of these communications features are included in the new Office 365 E5 plan, which costs $35 per user per month, compared to prices between $8 and $20 for enterprise plans without them. (Alternately, Cloud PBX can be added to a stand-alone Skype for Business Online plan for $8 per Ovum. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Page 2

3 user per month.) The new E5 plan is available to all Office 365 customers worldwide, although the PSTN Conferencing capability is as yet available in only 15 countries in Europe and North America, plus South Africa. Local dial-in access numbers are available in 45 countries for now, with that list expanding. Notably absent from the new E5 plan is PSTN Calling, the suite s fourth new voice-related capability and the one that turns Office 365 into a hosted telephony service. PSTN Calling is a regulated telecoms service provided by Microsoft. It lets Skype for Business Online users dial out to and receive calls from PSTN numbers. PSTN Calling is available only in the US for now, with international expansion to commence in It costs either $12 per user per month (domestic calls only) or $24 (domestic and international calls) over and above the price of E5. Each user gets 3,000 minutes of outbound domestic calling per month and 800 minutes of outbound international calling. Minutes are pooled, so a company with 100 users with PSTN Calling gets 30,000 outbound domestic minutes to use among them. Operators must decide whether to cooperate or compete The introduction of PSTN Calling and Cloud PBX is the most important change Microsoft has made to Office 365, at least from the perspective of the communications market. It turns Skype for Business Online from a closed environment that lets users message and call one another to a Microsoft-delivered hosted telephony service that can compete directly with hosted telephony services providers already selling to SMEs and large enterprises. Previously businesses could subscribe to services that integrate Office 365 with hosted telephony. These were and remain available from Arkadin (NTT), AT&T, CallTower, Connect Solutions, Telenor, Umojo, and Vodafone, among others. They all require that businesses contract with both Microsoft and third-party partners, complicating ordering, delivery, support, and other processes. Office 365 with PSTN Calling, by contrast, will be delivered solely by Microsoft. This will simplify service delivery, potentially making it easier for customers, but at the same time creating a level of conflict that did not previously exist between Microsoft and its partners. Providers with services that integrate hosted telephony with Office 365 will find themselves competing head-to-head with Microsoft. As such, Office 365 with PSTN Calling directly threatens an important revenue stream for operators. However, Office 365 with PSTN Calling can also present operators with new opportunities. Numerous operators resell Office 365, providing it to businesses with a wide range of connectivity, managed, and professional services. Providers will be able to upsell existing Office 365 customers to the new E5 plan, as well as sell them the PSTN Calling add-on. (The latter, however, will not be an opportunity for Microsoft partners in the near term, because the company will initially sell PSTN Calling only through its direct sales force. This is expected to change over time, but Microsoft has not indicated when.) For the majority of providers that have not invested in building their own integrated Office 365 with telephony services, reselling the Microsoft-delivered service will be a viable albeit low-margin option. In addition, operators will be able to provide add-on services for Office 365 with PSTN Calling. Among these is Azure ExpressRoute, which provides businesses with a dedicated and secure connection to Office 365. Operators providing this for Office 365 include AT&T, BT, Colt, Equinix, Level 3, Orange Business, Tata Communications, Telstra, Verizon, and Vodafone. Ovum. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Page 3

4 Operator opportunities for Microsoft-based communications services Office 365 with PSTN Calling promises to be very popular among Microsoft customers, particularly SMEs that have wanted a Microsoft-delivered telephony service for years. However, it is unlikely to eclipse operators hosted UC services. Many businesses are not seeking a Microsoft-based communications service and, as such, will not be interested in the first place. They will continue to opt for the various hosted VoIP, hosted PBX, and hosted UC services widely available from providers. Likewise, many businesses have opted not to adopt Office 365 and the new Microsoft service will appeal first and foremost to Office 365 subscribers. Microsoft can only offer PSTN Calling in conjunction with Office 365 or the stand-alone version, Skype for Business Online, so it is only businesses that subscribe to these services that will be sales targets for the enhanced service. In addition, there is likely to be considerable demand for Microsoft-based business communications services delivered by partners rather than Microsoft. Reasons for this include: The limited set of call features in Cloud PBX, which is extremely small compared with hosted PBX services. It is also small compared with Skype for Business Server, on which providers hosted Skype for Business services are based. As such, providers will be able to present their various hosted PBX and hosted Skype for Business service as much more feature-rich, and therefore more desirable, to business buyers. The limited geographical reach of PSTN Calling, which is as yet available only in the US. As a regulated service, Microsoft will only gradually make the service available elsewhere as it encounters the same regulatory challenges that all other service providers face. The shared architecture on which Office 365 is based, which will not appeal to privacy- and security-conscious enterprises preferring hosted communications delivered as a dedicated service. Providers ability to differentiate their own hosted Microsoft services. Vodafone s integration of Office 365 with its IMS-based platform, for example, delivers mobility capabilities that Microsoft cannot replicate. Appendix Further reading Skype for Business Online: New Opportunities, New Challenges, TE (April 2015) Microsoft rebrands Lync as "Skype for Business," IT (November 2014) Microsoft alters its hosted Lync strategy, EI (September 2014) Operator Opportunities for Office 365, TE (May 2014) Author Brian Riggs, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Communications Ovum. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Page 4

5 Ovum Consulting We hope that this analysis will help you make informed and imaginative business decisions. If you have further requirements, Ovum s consulting team may be able to help you. For more information about Ovum s consulting capabilities, please contact us directly at Copyright notice and disclaimer The contents of this product are protected by international copyright laws, database rights and other intellectual property rights. The owner of these rights is Informa Telecoms and Media Limited, our affiliates or other third party licensors. All product and company names and logos contained within or appearing on this product are the trademarks, service marks or trading names of their respective owners, including Informa Telecoms and Media Limited. This product may not be copied, reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission of Informa Telecoms and Media Limited. Whilst reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that the information and content of this product was correct as at the date of first publication, neither Informa Telecoms and Media Limited nor any person engaged or employed by Informa Telecoms and Media Limited accepts any liability for any errors, omissions or other inaccuracies. Readers should independently verify any facts and figures as no liability can be accepted in this regard readers assume full responsibility and risk accordingly for their use of such information and content. Any views and/or opinions expressed in this product by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Informa Telecoms and Media Limited. Ovum. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Page 5

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