“I have a question. Do we really need to add PSTN Conferencing on?”
This question came from a prospective customer, during our planning stage for a Skype for Business/Office 365 rollout.
I was not present at the meeting; my co-worker told me about it later. When I heard the question, it made me think a moment. DID you really need PSTN Conferencing?
Let’s explore the idea, shall we? Who knows, it might figure into your own Skype for Business planning!
What PSTN Conferencing Does
First, a little about the PSTN Conferencing feature.
The Skype Meeting tool allows people to join a meeting space using their computers, or an app on their phones. Then they can share voice, video, a desktop, a whiteboard, etc.
But what if you don’t have an app or computer available? Or you’re on the road with no Wi-Fi? How do you join the meeting?
PSTN Conferencing lets you dial into the meeting with your phone. Just call a specific number and you’re in the meeting. The PSTN Conferencing feature enables you to create the dial-in number (or numbers) within Skype for Business.
How PSTN Conferencing Works in Skype for Business Online
In Office 365’s Skype for Business Online, PSTN Conferencing is an add-on. You have to buy it from within Office 365 Admin on a per-user licensing basis.
Set up dial-in or PSTN conferencing for Skype for Business – Office Support
The add-on costs $4/month per user (unless you’re on Office 365 E5). That’s $48/year per user. If you have 100 users who need PSTN Conferencing, you’re looking at almost $5,000 per year, every year.
Now, not every user needs a PSTN Conferencing license. Only those who plan to schedule Skype Meetings or lead them will need one. Regular attendees don’t.
How PSTN Conferencing Works in Skype for Business Server
In Skype for Business Server, the feature is actually called “Dial-In Conferencing.” You need two things to make it work: a Mediation Server and a PSTN Gateway.
The Mediation Server is required for Enterprise Voice, and a PSTN Gateway translates signals between Enterprise Voice and a PSTN or PBX. If you want to call out, you’d need both of these anyway!
You also need to configure a dial plan, access number, and conferencing region. Once Skype for Business is deployed, that’s relatively simple to add in. The full requirements are listed in TechNet: Plan for dial-in conferencing in Skype for Business Server 2015 – TechNet.
(You can also use a third-party solution for PSTN Conferencing, if your Skype4B Server deployment isn’t set up like this. Communiqué makes one, for instance.)
We’ve had Dial-In Conferencing installed on our internal Skype for Business Server (and Lync Server before that) since deployment. I’d never thought about it as anything other than “just a part of the system.”
But as I think about it, I realize I’ve never actually used the dial-in number. Even on my phone, I’d use the app. Does anyone else?
I asked around the office. Only one person had ever used the dial-in number, twice while driving/stuck in traffic. Aside from that, we didn’t actually need Dial-In Conferencing!
How Many People Use PSTN Conferencing to Dial In?
As mentioned above, PSTN Conferencing’s core functionality is to provide a number for calling into conferences/Skype Meetings.
Here’s the question: Who will you have calling into your conferences?
Think about the purposes behind your conferences.
- Team status updates?
- Project discussions?
- Sales/New customer meetings?
- Management roundtables?
I could go on, but one thing’s clear – many purposes exist for having a conference. But do all of them require external dial-in access? No.
In fact, only #3 above would benefit from dial-in access. And that’s only if…
- You’re meeting with a non-local customer who doesn’t have Internet access.
- A regular phone call won’t suffice, and again, no Internet access available.
- Nobody has Skype for Business, or Skype, installed on their computers/phones.
- The Skype for Business Web App isn’t working.
PSTN Conferencing May Age Out of Use, in Time
Of course you’ll want to have phone numbers where customers can reach you. That’s what Enterprise Voice (and Cloud PBX) are for.
But a conferencing dial-in number suddenly seems like less of a priority. Besides, if an external user or customer did need to join your meeting, you still have the Skype for Business Web App.
I guess it comes down to Phone vs. App. What do you prefer – calling phone numbers, or using an app? It’s only my observation, but more and more people are leaning toward App.
Which makes things like PSTN Conferencing an add-on of the past.
When deploying Skype for Business, examine your user base. Consider what kinds of Skype Meetings you’ll hold, and who will attend. It may be that you can rely on apps—and not need the time/cost of installing PSTN Conferencing.