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Is the Office 365 E5 Suite Microsoft’s First Step to Becoming an International Telco?

Thought-Leadership by Scott King
on February 2, 2016

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On the 28th of January at the “Drumbeat” partner event in Amsterdam, Microsoft unveiled its new Office 365 E5 Suite. Throughout the event, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Is Microsoft positioning itself to become an international telecommunications company?” After several hours of presentations, discussions and analysis I decided….”YES, but they are not quite there yet.”  

From the US to EU and APAC – Microsoft’s is taking steps to becoming an international telco.

On December 1st, 2015, Microsoft launched an all-inclusive voice service that includes Cloud PBX, PSTN Conferencing, and PSTN Calling plans. The latter is only available in the United States, as this is the only country where Microsoft completed the regulatory approvals. Microsoft is offering voice telephone subscriptions with inter-connection to landline and mobile phones, making them in essence a national telco in the U.S. today. 

However, to get into Europe and other countries, Microsoft still needs several months of negotiations to meet all the relevant telco regulatory requirements. Microsoft has stated it is underway with getting certified in most all developed countries in the EU, Asia, and the America’s. In the UK, Netherlands, and Germany, the service is expected to be ready by July 2016, but this is dependent on the speed of regulators to approve the application, which can vary.

What is Office 365 E5? Why a launch now with the Drumbeat event?

So even though calling is not yet included outside the US, Microsoft has gone ahead and launched the Office 365 E5 suite for the rest of the world. For an additional $15 on top of the existing E3 suite, you get ALL of the services listed below, each of which can also be purchased separately. Prices are indicative as no Euro prices were presented at this Drumbeat event, and actual prices vary depending on license and currency. The new services are:

Free New Feature for existing E1 and E3 users.

  • Skype Meeting Broadcast (for online meetings of up to 10,000 participants - Free)

Security and Control

  • Advanced Threat Protection ($2 for an online sandbox for ensuring against same-day virus/malware attacks)

  • Customer Lockbox ($2 for added security controls for Microsoft support access)

  • Advanced eDiscovery ($8 for tooling that can aid in providing discovery evidence in legal and regulatory processes)

Analytics

  • Power BI Pro ($10 for enterprise grade analytics, reporting and dash-boarding)

  • Delve Analytics ($4 for a personal productivity dashboard that gives users insights into work and networking effectiveness)

Voice Communications

  • Cloud PBX ($8 to manage your corporate number plan in the cloud, replacing on-premise PABX and/or Lync server)

  • PSTN Conferencing ($4 for participants to have a dial-in number to Skype meetings)

  • PSTN Calling (US Only) - NOT CURRENTLY AVAILABLE IN EU. Prices for EU are currently not decided, but in the US the National calling plan costs $12 (all calls to landline and mobile phones included - up to a shared limit) and the International call plan $14. 

So the E5 suite contains the core telecom proposition and a host of other add-on services.  Customers interested in utilizing VOIP calling from Microsoft will have to purchase E5 first, and then later add the optional calling plans once available.  By launching E5, Microsoft is now providing a clear roadmap and the starting place for customers looking to transform voice calling within their company. And this will most certainly happen by adding voice calling to Skype for Business’s which already includes integrated communications solutions for audio, video, chat, email, sharing, meetings and broadcast conferencing,

No Cloud PSTN in Europe yet… So why should I care?

Although the EU probably needs to wait at least another six months before PSTN calling becomes available, the Office 365 E5 Suite is still worth looking into today for a number of reasons:

  1. PSTN Calling is coming to the EU as early as this summer, so start evaluating your technology roadmap as well as aligning your technology strategy across your technical, procurement, and licensing teams.

  1. Start taking advantage of the FREE Skype Meeting Broadcast if you already use Office 365. Organize either internal or external meetings for your entire company or your entire customer base - as easily as you can for your whole department or project team.

  1. Check out if any of the new services are interesting for you as add-on’s for existing E1 or E3 users. The benefit line for purchasing the bundle is roughly 3 services. If you are only interested in 1 or 2 of the new services, then it’s better to just buy them independently. You can always upgrade to the full suite later.

In subsequent blog posts, I will highlight the new services on offer and help you evaluate the benefits.

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Related blog posts:

Topics: Cloud and BYOD, End User Computing

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