Teams Phone Mobile (TPM) is an eagerly awaited addition to Microsoft’s successful Teams collaboration toolset, which comes as part of a user’s suitably licensed Microsoft 365 subscription.
TPM follows Microsoft’s general availability release of Operator Connect in 2021, through which Teams administrators could choose a carrier and complete the process of assigning numbers and calling plans to users, making Teams Phone System their office phone and conferencing system.
What Is Teams Phone Mobile?
Teams Phone Mobile (TPM) allows a company’s mobile numbers and devices to be controlled through Teams. A user has a single mobile number assigned to their Teams client and their mobile service, enabling them to make calls natively from their mobile device or their in-office Teams client. The result? Both calls appear to the recipient to have originated from the same mobile number in either case.
Inbound calls made to the number can be taken on either the office Teams client or the mobile device – a little like the old SimRing – but it means others in your team can pick up calls to your mobile if you can’t. If you’re on a mobile call out of the office, people in your business can see you’re on a call and set a notification for when you’re off the call and free.
Why TPM Matters for Businesses
TPM will give businesses the benefits of single-number/ubiquitous reach offered by mobile services, seamlessly backed up by the resilience and scalability of a landline phone system.
Some of the probable use cases and benefits will include:
- mobile workers being able to take calls on their mobile or their Teams client
- being able to switch a native mobile call back into a Teams call to enable features such as video, Teams instant messaging, and screen-sharing
- overflow to a colleague/queue
- presence visibility of remote workers
- one voicemail platform with speech-to-text
- shortcode/extension calling
- main office number CLI presentation for those who wish to keep their mobile number private
- unified call compliance through call recording integration – regardless of where a call is initiated, including capturing calls into Copilot for call summaries and transcription.
But TPM isn’t a single one-size-fits-all proposition – and the choice to adopt it will vary depending on whether your home country has geographic mobile numbers (US/Canada and many Caribbean countries who use the +1 North American Numbering Plan (NANP)) or mobile-specific number ranges (the rest of world).
Which Organisations Is TPM Suitable For?
For small organisations whose mobile numbers are the only source of inbound calls, customers are likely calling a number that is already ‘out in the wild’ and wish to continue to do so. TPM offering valuable Teams capabilities on top of an organisation’s existing mobile numbers makes perfect business sense.
In those scenarios, TPM is the ideal way to improve communication capabilities, better support the core functions of the business, and provide greater customer engagement. A call to one mobile can now be answered by any user in the business, regardless of whether they’re on a desk phone, a Teams client, or another mobile. Importantly, a call made from the in-office Teams client appears as a mobile call but can still be logged.
For larger companies with a blended workforce, TPM offers a great blended phone capability – office-bound workers on Teams-compatible headsets/handsets and mobile workers on TPM endpoints. Choosing the right service (Teams Phone Standard or Teams Phone Mobile) and plan can deliver great productivity benefits for both the worker and the organisation.
TPM for Geographical Mobile Number Ranges
In addition to adding Teams features to mobile phone calls – such as the ability for a recipient to appear in a Teams hunt group, for colleagues to see mobile presence status, and to have a single voicemail – TPM users can now elevate native mobile calls to native Teams calls and have a combined call history list for both Teams and mobile calls.
Indeed, there are additional benefits for organisations that have mobile-specific number ranges:
- There will be reduced call forwarding costs associated with sending inbound callers to be answered by the office when you’re busy (for regions that don’t offer all-inclusive plans) – or for office calls to be forwarded to the mobile with no associated call forwarding costs.
- For users whose number is already ‘in the wild’, the entire organisation will now be available to accept the call if the user is busy.
Calling mobile numbers typically costs more than calling landline numbers, so having a single, customer-facing landline number that can then be internally forwarded to and answered natively on mobile or Teams provides minor cost benefits for callers, but the reductions in call-forwarding costs can be significant.
Importantly, using landline numbers helps an organisation seem more ‘credible’ or ‘business-ready’. A hangover from the early 2000s and 2010s – when mobile numbers were used by businesses that didn’t have a physical location – means organisations that use mobile numbers as their main point of contact may be perceived as smaller, less capable, and potentially less reliable. While these perceptions are likely to dissipate over the next 10 years, they should still be factored in when weighing up the viability of TPM.
TPM for North American Numbering Plan (NANP) Countries
In countries that use the NANP, there is no visual or cost difference between a mobile and a landline number, so callers will not be aware – or care – that they may be calling a mobile user when calling a business. As a result, there are no credibility implications for either the organisation or the caller; the main benefit of TPM is the availability of Teams features for mobile-first workers and all the related integration and enterprise compliance features that it can wrap into seamlessly.
Teams Phone Mobile vs. Fixed–Mobile Convergence
TPM isn’t the only option for integrating fixed-line and mobile telephony. Fixed–mobile convergence (FMC) has been an increasingly popular way to eliminate the barriers of location and device.
Like TPM, FMC means that a customer can call a landline number and be answered either on a desk phone or natively on the recipient’s mobile. When a worker with FMC calls a customer – regardless of whether the call is made from a mobile or a desk phone – the calling ID will show up as being from their assigned landline number. As such, FMC essentially combines the benefits of PBX with the flexibility of mobile.
Depending upon the implementation of FMC, calls can be transferred between devices and, apart from the availability of Teams-specific features, there aren’t many functional differences between TPM and FMC as far as the end user is concerned. (It should be noted that third-party developers are in the process of enabling FMC call elevation to Teams anyway, so FMC users will soon be able to access some Teams-specific features as well.) Like TPM, FMC has less relevance in NANP countries where there is no visual difference between mobile and fixed-line numbers.
The main differentiator between FMC and TPM is cost. An organisation using FMC needs to pay for calling plans for both fixed-line and mobile, whereas an organisation using TPM could anchor its entire telephony environment on mobile calling plans – no fixed-line needed – or on a mixture of both, but only pay for calls from a specific user on only one platform. That cost disparity is particularly relevant for enterprise-level organisations, which could potentially have hundreds or even thousands of employees on unnecessary fixed-line calling plans and should be a factor when deciding what solution to use.
TPM can offer a greater competitive advantage for customers than FMC because FMC typically requires both a fixed and a mobile number. TPM is largely predicated on the presentation of a mobile number being used for both fixed and mobile calling. TPM is an extension of Operator Connect and the inherent flexibility of OC allows non-mobile Teams ends to use one carrier for terrestrial calling, but allows the customer to select a different calling provider for TPM. TPM offers easier selection and separation of mobile and ‘fixed’ calling rates and plans, so, potentially, beneficial deals can be done that favour the brave.
Importantly, eliminating fixed-line plans through TPM doesn’t mean the elimination of front-facing landline numbers. Using platforms like TCAP, inbound calls can still go to a single ‘landline’ front door (from which calls can be distributed to the relevant mobile team members), and outbound calls can appear to originate from the mobile or fixed-line number. Calls that need to go directly to an individual team member can use their chosen mobile number.
As teams become increasingly mobile – whether through hybrid working arrangements or field operations – communication parity is an increasing concern for organisations big and small. Team members shouldn’t have their accessibility compromised by their location, and Teams Phone Mobile is a part of the solution: a cost-effective way to combine the best of Teams, mobile, and fixed-line.
Moving to TPM simplifies telephony for staff while preserving the customer experience. Importantly, it’s a step forward from FMC, which still requires organisations to have fixed-line calling plans.
TPM isn’t necessarily a game-changing technology, but its cost and usability benefits are significant enough that most organisations, even those in NANP countries, should consider making the switch.