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Skype for Business

Expanding the reach of Skype for Business meetings and voice services in Office 365

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Editor’s note 4/11/2016:
Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition is now available worldwide for download. For more information, please read the announcement here.

Editor’s note 3/31/2016:
Post was updated to reflect the delivery of the new virtual Organizational Auto Attendant in Cloud PBX Preview.

Three months ago, we launched Skype for Business Cloud PBX, Meeting Broadcast and PSTN services to provide a complete meetings and voice experience in Office 365. Already, thousands of Office 365 customers are using these services, and many more are trialing them. Today, we’re announcing our first major geographic expansion of these services; new support for hybrid deployments; new, modern meeting room solutions; and improvements to our unified reporting, management and analytics.

PSTN Conferencing available for purchase in 32 countries

As of March 1, 2016, customers in 17 additional countries—Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia and South Korea—can buy dial-in conferencing as part of their Office 365 subscription. Now customers in 32 countries total can simplify their infrastructure using Skype for Business Online for all of their meeting needs, and take advantage of flat-rate, per-user, per-month pricing to simplify budgeting and accounting for conferencing services. Our PSTN conferencing service will include local dial-in numbers in more than 60 countries by the end of this month and nearly 100 countries by the end of June.

New Cloud PBX features and general availability of the Cloud Connector Edition

We’re also pleased to announce that the new Cloud Connector Edition of Skype for Business Server will be generally available starting in April. All versions of Skype for Business Server allow customers worldwide to use Office 365 Cloud PBX with the carrier calling services of their choice, and the new Cloud Connector Edition allows customers to quickly connect existing phone lines and phone numbers to Office 365 by delivering these proven hybrid capabilities as optimized, pre-configured virtual machine images. This summer, we will deliver a preview of our new virtual Organizational Auto Attendant in Cloud PBX, enabling customers to use Office 365 for automated handling of business calls and using speech recognition.

PSTN Calling Preview outside the U.S.

Starting in May, we will offer a preview of Skype for Business PSTN Calling services in the UK. With the preview, customers in the UK will be able to trial number acquisition and assignment, inbound and outbound calling, voicemail and other features—all provided by Microsoft and seamlessly integrated as part of Office 365. Office 365 customers in the UK can register for the preview today at the Skype Preview sign-up page.

Project Rigel—bringing the Skype Meeting experience to every meeting room

Over 97 percent of meeting rooms are currently equipped with traditional projectors or displays and only a telephone for including remote participants. But for meetings to be as effective and engaging as possible requires web and video conferencing with features like screen sharing, IM and whiteboard. Without these capabilities, people lose the benefits of rich interaction, remote participants have a sub-optimal experience and the whole team is less productive due to longer meeting startup times.

Today, we are announcing an initiative, codenamed “Project Rigel,” to address this problem. Project Rigel will bring a Skype Meeting experience pioneered on Microsoft Surface Hub to nearly any meeting room with a display or projector. It will use Windows 10 devices for center-of-room touch control and Skype for Business online meeting technology to easily connect remote users. Hardware partners including Polycom and Logitech will certify elements of their portfolios for use with Project Rigel systems, including the Polycom RealPresence Trio and CX5100, and Logitech ConferenceCam Connect, ConferenceCam GROUP and PTZ Pro Camera. Logitech also plans to deliver a purpose-built smart dock for Project Rigel to seamlessly connect the system elements in a meeting room, while Polycom plans to deliver a portfolio of complete Project Rigel systems. We expect the first systems based on Project Rigel to be available in the second half of 2016.

Connecting traditional video teleconferencing systems to the Office 365 Meeting experience

Roughly 3 percent of meeting spaces today include traditional video teleconferencing systems, or VTCs, from Cisco, Polycom and others. We’re pleased to be working with Polycom on two new efforts to extend the Skype Meeting experience to these dedicated video endpoints. First, Polycom will provide an update to its RealPresence Group Series products, which will add both Office 365 integration and a user interface consistent with the Skype Meeting experience. Second, Polycom will provide a Cloud Video Interoperability service, hosted in the Microsoft cloud, which will enable a wide range of existing VTCs, including Cisco and Polycom systems, to connect to Skype for Business meetings in Office 365 and will include audio, video and content interoperability. We will work closely with Polycom to ensure that Office 365 customers can easily take advantage of this service. Both offerings are expected to be available in the second half of 2016.

Through these innovations, we will deliver with our partners a complete range of video conferencing solutions based on Skype for Business in Office 365, establishing a new standard for cloud, hybrid voice and video capabilities for any business meeting room.

Unified management, reporting and analytics for enterprise communications

Finally, in keeping with our goal to make the Skype for Business management tools powerful and easy to use for IT professionals, we will add powerful management, reporting and analytics tools to our communications cloud in the second half of this year. IT admins will be able to understand usage patterns, analyze call quality and quickly troubleshoot issues in both cloud and hybrid Skype for Business deployments via a single pane of glass within the Office 365 admin portal.

Join us

Customers around the world rely on Microsoft for their communications. We power more modern meetings than any other provider, with over 100 million meetings conducted each month using Skype services. Kelly Services, TRC, Cushman & Wakefield, Ixia and many others take advantage of our services in Office 365 to improve teamwork, consolidate suppliers and cut costs. And they can rely on our commitment to continually improve our services using the hyper-scale, intelligent and trusted Microsoft cloud.

Try Skype for Business in your organization using the free 30-day Office 365 E5 trial and see how a complete enterprise grade voice and meetings solution delivered as an integral part of our modern productivity stack can help your teams achieve more together.

—Zig Serafin, corporate vice president on the Skype Business Services team

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35 comments
  1. Can you share anyinformation about Toll-Free number coverage throughout the world?

    • We’re actively working on expanding the service and capabilities, but do not have any details to share on toll-free number coverage today. We’ll say more here in the blog when we can.

    • We hope to be able to make the service available to Education customers soon, but do not have details to share today.

    • We hope to expand beyond the US and UK in the coming months and quarters, and will provide a public update as soon as we can.

    • We hope to expand beyond the US and UK in the coming months and quarters, and will provide a public update as soon as we can.

  2. I know this is off topic, but the silence on the following is deafening:

    SFB for Mac?
    SFB for Mac?
    SFB for Mac?

    I know it is not ready, but communicate so that your mixed platform enterprise customers can manage expectations internally and managed the change within the organization.

      • Thanks, I have actually seen it already. I appreciate you adding it here for others to see.

        I still have an issue with the management of this roadmap. As the lack of information from Nov 2015 until the present day represents again how information trickles out, commitments are loose, and the user base consistently has to push to get any semblance of status.

        Case in point, the video mentioned that January would hold the release of information on how to enrol in the preview. I cannot find that anywhere…

        The length of time for this to be released coupled with the poor communication is an exercise in extreme frustration. (Of course said frustration would be mitigated if the interim product, Lync 2011, was reliable at the enterprise level)

          • Thanks, I have signed up to the preview but nowhere within the products list do I see the Skype for Business Mac preview as a selection. Am I missing something or some steps to have that shown as an option for me?

            Thanks

  3. Will there be a way to integrate Skype for Business with an existing on-premise VOIP (Cisco) setup? Basically we’d like to be able to have SfB call us at our internal extensions. Is there a link to where I could read more about this Cloud Connector Edition, where I might find more information about whether or not it was meant for the scenario described?

    Thank you!

    • Phillip, you can do this today with Cloud PBX utilizing a Hybrid Configuration which is comprised of at least a single Front End server and a single Edge server located on-premises that is connected to your Online tenancy. You simply integrate your on-premises server with your CUCM deployment as normal (if it’s not already) and can now move your SfB users to the cloud.

      If you do not have any on-premises Lync or SfB installation today then the upcoming Cloud Connector will provide the same capability to connect your CUCM deployment directly to a Office 365 tenant, with a smaller on-premises footprint and simpler integration to get setup even faster.

      • Thank you, Jeff. We don’t have an on-premise SfB, it is all hosted by Microsoft. I’m looking forward to the Cloud Connector and it’s ability to connect the two environments together. Have a great day!

  4. This is great news for users and organizations in Czech Republic that PSTN Conferencing will be here GA!

    But one important question about it. If company has already E5 plan which was activated as “Office 365 Enterprise E5 without PSTN Conferencing” when PSTN was not available will be automatically transfered to “Office 365 Enterprise E5 with PSTN Conferencing”?

    • Hi Petr. Glad to hear you’re interested in PSTN conferencing in the Czech Republic. To answer your question, no, it will not be automatically transferred. Instead, customers will need to transition to the SKU with PSTN conferencing.

    • We hope to offer the services to education customers soon. Please stay tuned!

      • Any chance for an eta? We are trying to plan for this and no one seems to be able to tell us when it will be available.

      • Any chance for an eta? We are trying to plan for this and no one seems to be able to tell us when it will be available. Any chance for a Preview program to EDU?

        • We don’t have anything further to publically announce at this time.

  5. Hi,
    What about having PSTN Conferencing and Cloud PABX available to be purchased in France?

    • Hi David. These are available for purchase in France now.

  6. What licensing is required to purchase Cloud PBX? I’ve seen some conflicting information about E SKUs versus Skype Online Plan 2. From testing it seems the Cloud PBX and PSTN Conferencing can be purchased as an add on to Online Plan 2, but I’ve only been able to successfully provision the PSTN Conferencing as a Plan 2 add on.

    We have a lot of clients on Business Premium and being able to use the included Plan 2 as the base for these add ons would be huge for us.

    • Hi Dustin. Today the services cannot be added to Business Premium. It should be possible to add to either an E-SKU or the standalone Skype for Business Plan 2.

  7. That is good that you expand the features that are essentials (PSTN conferencing and call). However, it would be adviseable if you could provide at least sketchy timeline when the features will be available in the particular countries in Europe. It is essential for business planing. Even as sketchy as Q2 2016 or by the end of the year.

    • Hi Aravil. Unfortunately we’re unable to project general availability of PSTN calling from Microsoft in different countries, though we will announce preview availability as soon as we can. Of course, with the new Cloud Connector Edition, it’s possible to use the carrier of your choice and connect locally terminated trunks to Cloud PBX.

  8. Looking forward to autoattendant. Are we going to be able to mask outbound calls with the organizational root #? Love the direct PSTN calling, but we’ve confused quite a few customers when our outbound caller ID is unrecognized.

    • This feature is a major missing piece that I hope is in there as well. I have had a few clients not adopt this and go with a hosted S4B server instead because they could not mask the DIDs.

  9. Hi, how can I setup PSTN calling on my office 365 E5 account?
    Thanks, Vic

  10. Hi, is there any reason why SFB w/Cloud PBX + PSTN calling doesn’t work when we’re trying to receive Incoming Calls from a mobile phone? I’ve tried using an android as well as an IOS phone and it only receives the Incoming Calls on my SFB desktop client. My tenant account is located in the US and there’s definitely no issue w/me making outgoing phone calls w/the SFB mobile application just with receiving incoming calls. Thank you.

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