Analogue Handsets and Microsoft Teams

Last week, I was working through a technical workshop with a customer who wanted to make the move to Microsoft Teams. We’d worked through the usual questions, and then the infamous question came: So .. are there any analogue devices still in use? “Yeah, about 50 handsets”.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that analogue handsets were a thing of the past. However, much like the fax machine, there’s still a whole lot of love out there for them.

There are many reasons for this, but the ones often heard are:

  • A basic analogue handset fits the requirement – There’s no need for a fancy touch screen.
  • It’s a common area phone – hallways, lifts, stairwells, doors, gates etc
  • It’s a wireless DECT handset – this may include multiple handsets and base stations.
  • It’s something special – like a car park barrier phone or intercom system
  • It’s in a difficult to reach or remote location – such as a shed or building located away from the main office
  • There’s no power or ethernet cabling to this location – it’s simply using a copper pair.

Whatever the reason, in almost all cases I have encountered, the customer has a requirement to have a working phone at that location. This means we need to come up with a plan of how we’re going to handle these analogue devices once we’ve moved to Microsoft Teams.

So, What’s the plan?

Well, firstly check and confirm with the customer that they actually still need the handset at that location. There’s always a possibility that it’s no longer required. As mentioned above though, this seldom happens.

Once you’ve confirmed the phone is still required, figure out if it can be replaced with a Microsoft Teams handset.

Currently, there are a small number of Microsoft Teams handsets available from Yealink and AudioCodes:

  • Yealink T56A
  • Yealink T58A
  • Audiocodes C450HD

Some things to consider with this approach:

  • Availability of networking and PoE – These phones will require a network connection, and can be powered via PoE.
  • Is this a noisy environment? – If the old analogue device was connected to a separate external ringer like a bell or light, this will need to be replaced too.

What if I can’t replace the handset with a Teams compatible device?

There will be times when you simply can’t replace an old analogue device with a Teams compatible handset. This could be as simple as there not being ethernet cabling at that location, or that the analogue device is built into something like a car park barrier, or emergency lift phone.

Most of the time, your customer is going to want to keep the same level of functionality on the device. The best news is, there are a number of ways to achieve this!

Options

You’ve got a few options here:

Option 1: Do .. nothing

You’ve read that right. Do nothing. Your PABX is already configured to work with these devices. If you can leave the PABX in place, as well as the PSTN connectivity, these devices can remain connected to the PABX and happily continue to work as they always have.

If you have this as an option, great! Most of us don’t though.

Option 2: Deploy Microsoft Teams Direct Routing

Alright, so the PABX has to go. What now?

Microsoft Teams Direct Routing is the answer. Direct Routing involves deploying a compatible session border controller (SBC) on premises, which allows you to connect up your analogue devices and convert them to SIP.

Here’s a simplified overview of how it works:

Direct Routing Overview

With this approach, your analogue devices and Microsoft Teams users can call each other internally, and you get to keep your existing ISDN or SIP provider for PSTN calls.

You can deploy this solution to many different sites within your organisation, and you can even route calls between SBC’s so analogue devices at different sites can make internal calls to each other.

What if we’ve gone down the Microsoft Online-only path?

If you’re already making and receiving calls via Microsoft Phone System and Calling Plans in Office 365, you’ll need to deploy direct routing at locations where analogue devices still require connectivity.

I’m ready to delve into this

Awesome! Microsoft have plenty of helpful documentation on Direct Routing over at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/MicrosoftTeams/direct-routing-plan

And as usual, if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

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