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Microsoft is upping the ante in the unified comms space, announcing an expanded roll out of its Skype for Business PSTN and PBX capabilities.
Starting in May, Microsoft will offer a preview of Skype for Business PSTN Calling services in the UK. Redmond’s service, which has been available in the US for a few months, can essentially replace the traditional private branch exchange (PBX), allowing VoIP calls over the public switched telephone network (PSTN).
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With the preview, customers in the UK will be able to trial number acquisition and assignment, inbound and outbound calling and voicemail.
Redmond’s announcement could have ramifications for a select group of channel players. PBX functionality in the Office 365 suite has been a long time coming. It was a common sense piece of the productivity puzzle that was missing and there have been a number of VARs and MSPs that have filled the niche by providing cloud-based PBXs on top of Microsoft’s services.
Of course, the telcos will also be looking over their shoulder. Microsoft has partnered with a range of global telecom players - BT Global Services, Orange Business Services, SoftBank, TATA Communications and Telstra. These partnerships, Microsoft says, will ‘provide secure, high-quality network connectivity and managed services that help customers get the best experience with the new Skype for Business services’.
For the rest of the carriers, Microsoft’s entry into the world of telecoms is bad news. Of course, Redmond isn’t the first to offer an IP-based PSTN solution, but Microsoft PBX Cloud’s tight integration with Office 365, which is currently dominating the cloud productivity arena, makes for a potent threat.
Microsoft announced a range of other voice enhancements. The Cloud Connector Edition of Skype for Business Server will be launched in April, allowing customers to quickly connect existing phone lines and phone numbers to Office 365. At the same time, the company will launch its new virtual ‘Organisational Auto Attendant’ in Cloud PBX, allowing automated handling of business calls and using speech recognition.
UK customers can register for the preview of Skype for Business with PSTN features today at the Skype Preview sign-up page.