This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: New blog articles in Microsoft Community Hub.
Authored by: Nick Slack, Senior Technical Program Manager
Microsoft is excited to announce the general availability (GA) launch of Azure Communications Gateway, a new product designed for telecom operators that simplifies connecting fixed and mobile voice networks to Microsoft Teams.
Azure Communications Gateway sits at the edge of an operator’s network, where it functions to secure, normalize, and interwork both voice and IT traffic between the operator and Microsoft Teams. It is a globally available managed service that simplifies network integration and accelerates time to market by removing the need for disruptive voice network changes and substantial IT system integration projects associated with adapting on-premises solutions.
Understanding the value of Operator Connect and Teams Phone Mobile
Operator Connect is a program from Microsoft Teams that allows telecom operators to provide enhanced enterprise calling solutions to Teams users, built on their network. Operator Connect differentiates itself from alternative solutions such as Direct Routing through its deep integration into the Teams platform to enhance and streamline the Teams Phone experience around networking, voice-quality, provisioning, management, and reporting APIs. By doing this, Operator Connect provides end-users with a simplified Teams Phone experience, delivered by operators, that has parity with Microsoft offerings.
Teams Phone Mobile builds on Operator Connect to provide a mobile-first Microsoft Teams experience that allows business users to access Teams capabilities through their mobile identity on both their native dialer and any Teams endpoint. By providing users with the Teams calling experience directly from their mobile native dialer, end users continue to benefit from the operator-delivered cellular network quality-of-service while maintaining the call services—including seamless call transfer between native dialers and Teams clients, presence integration, unified call history, and unified voicemail—that users have become accustomed to when using Teams clients.
To enable these enhanced calling experiences, operators must integrate their existing mass-market fixed and mobile networks, as well as established OSS/BSS with Microsoft Teams. To ease this transition, Azure Communications Gateway provides operators with the necessary components for Operator Connect and Teams Phone Mobile, together with Microsoft expertise, to assist with solving these complex integration issues.
How Azure Communications Gateway supports telco operators
Azure Communications Gateway consists of two functional elements – a Session Border Controller to facilitate integration of voice flows, and an optional API Bridge to assist with IT integration. The Teams certified Session Border Controller (SBC) function is provided for voice interoperability, based on technology acquired by Microsoft through the acquisition of Metaswitch Networks.
Beyond basic Teams functionality, this also provides SIP and RTP interworking capabilities that have been successfully deployed in the fixed and mobile networks of Tier 1 operators for over a decade. This makes Azure Communications Gateway uniquely capable of resolving interoperability issues between Telco networks and Microsoft Teams. This has proven critical in the launch of Teams Phone Mobile, with the underlying technology being used at all Wave 1 Teams Phone Mobile deployments.
Azure Communications Gateway also features an inclusive benefit to assist operators with integrating Teams Phone Mobile and Operator Connect into their network. This is provided by experienced Telco network professionals from the same team who have helped deliver the successful implementation of several Operator Connect projects, and all Wave 1 Teams Phone Mobile operators.
Beyond just voice integration, Azure Communications Gateway provides assistance to operators in their IT integration with Microsoft Teams through its API Bridge add-on. IT integration is a mandatory part of the Operator Connect and Teams Phone Mobile programs and often presents one of the costliest and slowest aspects of launching these products to market. Rather than attempting to replace existing systems in which operators have already invested a significant amount, Azure Communications Gateway instead provides a path to leverage existing investments by reducing the magnitude of the integration involved.
The API Bridge option does this in two ways; first, by providing a mediation function that offers a flexible API interface. This can be used by Microsoft staff to create a customized API that is easier for existing systems to interface with. As such, rather than requiring development against the Teams API, IT integration projects can be reduced to minor changes to existing provisioning calls.
Even with the API Bridge mediation function, IT integration projects can still be one of the slowest parts of bringing an Operator Connect or Teams Phone Mobile offering to market. For this reason, the second function included in the API Bridge option is a portal that can be used by provisioning staff in a swivel-chair capacity while full IT automation is being completed. This portal includes functionality that allows all requirements of the Operator Connect program to be met, unblocking the general availability (GA) launch for operators entering the market.
These two functions of the API Bridge combine to enable operators to meet the requirements of the Operator Connect and Teams Phone Mobile programs as quickly as possible without compromising long-term quality.
The evolution of Managed Service for Teams Calling: Operators gain more with Azure Communications Gateway
Azure Communications Gateway is the evolution of the Managed Service for Teams Calling, first launched by Metaswitch alongside Operator Connect in late 2021. The service contains various updates based on key insights gleaned from early Operator Connect and Teams Phone Mobile partners. These include:
- New Azure-native architecture removes traffic-carrying instances from operator’s Azure subscription. Instead, this is run as part of the Azure platform.
- Updated IP allocation such that QoS policies are applied and honored within the Microsoft network. Azure Communications Gateway is the only SBC option on Azure to support this.
- Updated security, compliance, data processing, and access control policies to meet Microsoft’s standards.
- Azure consumption-based pricing, allowing operator spend on Azure Communications Gateway to be retired against MACC (Microsoft Azure Consumption Commitment) quotas.
- Updated call flow and interworking support to allow Azure Communications Gateway to simulate 3GPP compliance for Teams when used with Teams Phone Mobile.
- Refreshed API Bridge portal, now part of the Azure Portal.
Learn more today
Azure Communications Gateway helps to optimize the existing communications investments and services of telco operators. The critical interworking functionality provided by the service enables operators to smoothly transition network components to the cloud, where Microsoft’s partnership delivers unrivaled support throughout each successive stage of the process.
To learn more about Azure Communications Gateway and how the service can transform your telecom network, please visit aka.ms/communications-gateway.