Microsoft has launched a new user license for Teams called Advanced Communications, which scales meetings up to 20,000 participants, introduces branded backgrounds and a new cloud-based phone system called Teams Calling.

Advanced Communications introduces new capabilities to Microsoft Teams designed to help organisations push beyond meetings into broader scale communications, such as company-wide events and conferences. Nicole Herskowitz, Teams general manager, said this was important as businesses had to adapt rapidly in the early stages of the pandemic and look towards more sustained transformation in the long term.

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“When it comes to communications, there is a broad spectrum of needs that are required to connect employees from the worksite to the main office to the home office – across locations and time zones,” said Herskowitz.

“The spectrum starts with the most basic 1:1 meetings and calls with colleagues, to larger group meetings, all the way to large events and conferences.”

With Advanced Communications, customers can scale Teams meetings up to 20,000 participants. To make sure that participants can still hear and manage speakers easily during large events, the size of interactive meetings will be limited to 1,000 participants. When this limit is met, the meeting will shift to a ‘view only’ mode.

Organisations can add custom branding to Teams meetings with the new Advanced Communications plan
Image: Microsoft

New features for admins, meanwhile, allow companies to add their own branding to meetings, starting with lobbies. Companies will be able to add custom branding to the core meeting experience at a later date, Microsoft said. Additional features aimed at Microsoft’s enterprise customers include compliance policy call recording and customer engagement workflows.

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To increase accessibility for employees who use a traditional phone to communicate, Microsoft is introducing Team Calling, a new cloud-based phone system that allows them to take their Teams contacts with them wherever they go, be it in the office or while working remotely. This can be deployed quickly using an existing calling plan or a Microsoft calling plan in select markets.

The Lenovo ThinkSmart View and Yealink will be delivering the first Microsoft Teams displays available in the US later this year.

The Microsoft Teams Advanced Communications plan can be added to any paid Microsoft 365 or Office 365 subscription and is available starting this week. Customers can sign up to a 60-day free trial from today via the Teams Admin Center, or from the Microsoft Teams website from mid-August.

New Teams phones and Microsoft’s latest range of hands-free devices powered by Microsoft’s virtual assistant, Cortana, are also in the pipeline, meanwhile the company is also expanding into a new range of new USB dial pad peripherals for heavy Teams users.

For Skype for Business customers moving to Teams, Microsoft is extending support for Skype for Business (3PIP) phones beyond 2023 and will also support core calling features on SIP phones from Cisco, Yealink, Polycom, and others with Teams from the first half of 2021.