Teams Advanced Communications License Now Available

Teams Advanced Communications at $12/user/month

On August 1, Microsoft launched a new Teams Advanced Communications add-on license. Because the license is not of general interest, Microsoft has not bundled it in Office 365 E5 or Microsoft 365 E5. Instead, Advanced Communication is an add-on which must be purchased individually at $12/user/month (U.S. price). The new SKU won’t initially be available for GCC tenants.

Eclectic Set of Features

Microsoft has bundled an eclectic set of features into the Advanced Communications license. At launch, the license covers:

  • Scaling up for Teams Live Events. Meeting organizers with the license can run Teams Live Events with up to 20,000 participants. The tenant can run 50 concurrent events, each of which can last up to 16 hours. These are the same limits that Microsoft temporarily extended to all tenants to help enterprise and education tenants cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The temporary limits will revert on 1 October 2020 to 10,000 participants, 15 events, with 4-hour duration.
  • Compliance Recording Integration: Users with the license can access ISV-sold compliance recording solutions through Teams APIs.
  • Contact Center Solution Integration: Users with the license can access ISV-sold call center solutions.

During 2020, Microsoft plans to increase the features licensed by the add-on to include:

  • Large meetings: Meeting organizers will be able to schedule Teams meetings with up to 1,000 interactive participants instead of the normal 300 limit.
  • View-only overflow: In addition to the 1,000 interactive participants, Teams meetings will be able to overflow to accommodate another 20,000 participants in a “view-only meeting experience.” I believe that the view-only users won’t be able to speak during the meeting but should have access to chat, just like participants in Live Events have.
  • Custom branded meeting lobby. Instead of going through the standard Teams meeting lobby with Microsoft branding, you’ll be able to apply corporate branding to greet meeting participants as they join.

Lack of Granularity in An Odd Add-On

There’s no granularity in the features. The one license covers them all. This poses a question of whether $12/month or $144/year is good value for what you get.

If you’re interested in organizing large meetings, the cost can probably be justified because only meeting organizers need the advanced communications add-on. Even in very large enterprises, it’s probable that relatively few people have the responsibility to organize meetings with more than 300 participants or live events with more than 10,000, so it should be easy enough to limit the cost by licensing a select bunch of users. Attendees don’t need an advanced communications license to attend a mega-meeting, even if they pass through a wonderfully-branded corporate lobby.

Teams Charges for an API

Value is less certain for those who need access from Teams to an ISV-created compliance recording or call-center solution. These solutions use the Teams compliance recording API to capture interactions between users and customers. Bots join calls to record the interaction and store it in the ISV solution, just like bots join regular Teams meetings when recordings are made to capture the audio and video streams for processing by Azure Media Services and (later) storage in Stream.

ISVs working in this space include ASC technologies, AudioCodes, CallCabinet, NICE, Numonix, Red Box, and Verint. Apart from call centers, the need to capture conversations is most evident in the financial sector but could also exist in medicine and education (or anywhere someone could be sued if their advice turns out to be faulty or illegal).

Monitoring solutions don’t tend to come cheap, so asking customers to cough up an extra $144 per user annually to connect a bot to an ISV solution seems steep (the users who need to be monitored are unlikely to organize large meetings). I’m sure Microsoft did some software engineering to bridge the gap between Teams meetings and ISV solutions, but I wonder why this aspect of Teams is so different as to warrant charging for access to an API.

Microsoft might have been better to have two add-ons; one for meeting organizers and one for those who need to be monitored. But then they couldn’t justify the $12/month charge by pointing to all the wonderful features bundled in the add-on.

No Minutes for E5 Licenses

Meanwhile, in other news released to partners, Microsoft says that their plan to bundle 120 minutes of PSTN calling in Office 365 E5 and Microsoft 365 E5 licenses has been cancelled. The reason given is “rapidly evolving market conditions,” which could mean anything. I think this is a pity because letting E5 licensees dial out to domestic PSTN numbers from Teams is a pretty good way to demonstrate the worth of Teams calling. But no doubt the numbers didn’t add up to sink the idea.

Advanced? Really?

Back to our original topic, I’m not sure that Microsoft can justify the “advanced” part of the Teams Advanced Communications license because there’s not much that is advanced in it. Maybe “bespoke” is a better term, albeit one that doesn’t quite have the same ring or excitement about it. In any case, the Teams Advanced Communication add-on is now available worldwide through Microsoft resellers, should you think you need it.

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Tony Redmond has written thousands of articles about Microsoft technology since 1996. He covers Office 365 and associated technologies for Petri.com and is also the lead author for the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook.