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Ohhh Canada! Domestic Calling Plans now include Calls to Canadian Numbers

Introduction 

If you have or are only deploying Microsoft Teams Direct Routing in your tenant, please go read something more entertaining! This article doesn’t apply to you! 

When Microsoft originally released the US Domestic Calling Plan it included the ability to make calls to numbers in the United States and Puerto Rico. Canadian numbers were treated as international numbers. Calls to US Domestic numbers were also not included for users with a Canadian Domestic Calling Plan. In the last few months, the US and Canadian Domestic Calling Plans have been amended to include calls between the two (2) nations. However, there is a catch, of course there is a catch otherwise this would be the end of the article! 

In Teams, where you can place calls to is determined by your assigned license and your assigned Teams Dial Out Policy. If you want to call an international number, you must have a license that includes international calling and a Dial Out Policy that permits international calling. In terms of the Microsoft Teams Dial Out Policy, Canada is a “Zone A” or international country for users whose user’s license location is the United States. The reverse is also true for those with a Canadian user license location. To enable these calls, the users must be assigned a Dial Out Policy that permits making calls to “Zone A” or all countries. The problem lies with many organizations who want to permit users to call Canadian numbers but do not want to grant them permission to make calls to all other countries. 

The Short Version - Setting up US Calling Plan users to make calls to Canadian Numbers 

  • Assign a “US Domestic Calling Plan” to the user. 
  • DO NOT assign the Communications Credits license. 
  • Grant one of these Dial Out Policies to the user: 

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The Long Version – Definitions and Full Explanation of the Solution 

Definitions 

User License Location 

  • Microsoft 365 Tenants can buy Calling Plans for an organization with locations or users in more than one country. 
  • A tenant with offices in the United States and United Kingdom may have purchased and added these licenses to their inventory in their tenant: 
  • US Domestic Calling Plan 
  • US Domestic and international Calling Plan 
  • UK Domestic Calling Plan 
  • UK Domestic and international Calling Plan 
  • Before you can assign a Microsoft 365 license to a user, you must define the user’s license location. 
  • In the Microsoft 365 portal, you can set a user’s license location by locating the user’s record and choosing it from the “Licenses and apps” tab. 
  • Once selected, you will have the option of provisioning country specific licenses to the user. 
  • You can also assign the user’s license location through PowerShell: 
  • MSOnline Azure Active Directory PowerShell module: 
  • Set-MSOLUser -UserPrincipalName “johndoe@domain.com” -UsageLocation “US” 
  • Microsoft Graph PowerShell module: 
  • Update-MgUser -UserID “johndoe@domain.com “ -UsageLocation “US” 
  • When an administrator goes to assign a Calling Plan to a user, they will only be able to assign a Calling Plan based on the user’s license location. 
  • If John Doe has been assigned a “US” license location, the administrator will only be able to assign him one of the “US” Calling Plans. The “UK” Calling Plans could not be assigned. 

Calling Plans 

  • To enable a Teams telephony user to make and receive Public Switched Telephony System (PSTN) calls, they must have a “Calling Plan” license assigned to them. 
  • In most countries, there are two (2) varieties of “Calling Plan” available: 
  • Domestic 
  • Domestic and International 
  • There may be several flavors of these two (2) types available to your organization. The different flavors include different numbers of available outbound PSTN calling minutes, per user, per month. The most common plans for United States users are: 
  • “US Domestic Calling Plan with 3,000 minutes” 
  • “US Domestic and International Calling Plan with 3,000 minutes of domestic calls and 600 minutes of international calls” 
  • The minutes in each type of Calling Plan are pooled together monthly. 
  • If a tenant owns ten (10) “US Domestic Calling Plans”, they will have a monthly pool of 30,000 minutes. If a user has made 3,000 minutes of outbound calls by the 20th of the current month, they can dip into the available pool minutes for the month to continue calling. 
  • If all the pooled minutes are used before the end of the month, the users with the specific Calling Plan will no longer be able to make outbound calls. They will continue to be able to make emergency calls. 

Communications Credits 

  • This license is used to cover any telephony charges that cannot be billed through “Calling Plans”: 
  • Toll-free numbers for Audio Conferencing meetings, auto attendants, or call queues. Toll-free calls are billed per minute and require a positive Communications Credits balance. 
  • Using the dial-out or “call me at” feature with numbers in non “Zone A” countries. 
  • Exceeding the pooled Audio Conferencing dial-out or “call me at” monthly allocation of minutes. 
  • Dialing international phone numbers when you have Domestic Calling Plan subscriptions. 
  • Additional minutes when the monthly pooled Calling Plan minutes have been consumed. 
  • Organizations setup a Communications Credits “account” in their tenant. 
  • When the “account” is setup, an initial seeding of funds is added. A mechanism is also setup to automatically “re-charge” the account if the available funds drop below a specified level. This works in very much the same way as an EZ-Pass, SunPass or Starbucks Rewards card. 
  • The Communications Credits license should be assigned to most Calling Plan users in case the pooled minutes get used up in a month. 
  • Assigning these to Direct Routing users is a subject for debate beyond the scope of this article. 

Zone A Countries 

  • Microsoft has designated forty-four (44) countries as “Zone A” countries. 
  • Canada is a “Zone A” country. 
  • Users would need either a “Zone A” or “international” permission in their assigned Teams Dial Out Policy to make calls to Canadian phone numbers. 

Microsoft Teams Dial Out Policy 

  • The Teams Dial Out Policy is used to broadly apply outbound call restrictions to a Teams user. 
  • The policy is applicable to Calling Plan, Operator Connect and Direct Routing users. 
  • The policy controls two (2) calling types: 
  • End-User PSTN Calls: Restricts the type of calls a user can make. 
  • Call restrictions can be set to: 
  • Disabled 
  • Domestic 
  • International 
  • Audio Conferencing PSTN Calls: Restricts the type of calls that can be made from a meeting organized by the user. 
  • Call restrictions can be set to: 
  • Disabled 
  • Domestic 
  • Zone A Countries 
  • International 
  • Forgive the terminology, but the Dial Out Policy has thirteen (13) different policies that can be granted to a Teams user. Each policy contains the restriction for end-user PSTN calls and Audio Conferencing PSTN calls. 
  • As a Teams user is enabled, they are granted the Global (org-wide default) version of the policy that permits international calls for both call types. 

 


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  • In the Teams Administration Center, the calling restrictions for the two (2) call types are applied in different locations in the individual user’s settings: 
  • End-User PSTN Calls 
  • Select the User 
  • On the “Voice” Tab, under “Outbound Calling”, select the restriction from the “Dial-out settings for calling” drop down box. 

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  • Audio Conferencing PSTN Calls 
  • Select the User 
  • On the “Account” Tab, scroll down to “Audio Conferencing” 
  • Click the “Edit” button 
  • Select the restriction from the “Dial Out from meetings” drop down box 
  • Click the “Apply” Button 

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  • The Dial-Out Policy can be assigned to a user using the Teams PowerShell module: 
  • Grant-CsDialOutPolicy -Identity “john.doe@domain.com” -PolicyName “DialOutCPCandPSTNDomestic” 
  • We won’t cover this here, but you can get more granular with your outbound call restrictions for Direct Routing users through the PSTN Usages and Voice Routes assigned to Online Voice Routing Policies.  

What License do you assign to a user to provide the ability to dial International Calls? 

  • If you want to enable a user for Teams telephony, they must have a “Phone System” license at an absolute minimum! The license can be assigned as an Add-On to an Office or Microsoft E1, E3, G1, G3, etc. It is an included feature in the E5, G5 level of Office and Microsoft license. 
  • If you are only using Teams Direct Routing in your tenant, you can skip the rest of this section. The Phone System license gives, from a license perspective, everything a Direct Routing user needs to make international calls. 
  • Calling Plan users need a Calling Plan license to make international calls. We are not going to discuss Operator Connect users due to the variety of license options available from the different Operator Connect vendors. 
  • There are two (2) ways this license can be provisioned: 
  • Domestic and International Calling Plan 
  • Simply, assign a “Domestic and International Calling Plan” license to the user. 
  • If you have five (5) users who need to make international calls, you will need to purchase five (5) “Domestic and International Calling Plans” and assign them. 
  • Communications Credits 
  • If there is at least one (1) “Domestic and International Calling Plan” in your tenant, users with a “Domestic Calling Plan” and the “Communications Credit” licenses will be able to make international calls. 
  • If you have the “US Domestic Calling Plan” and “UK Domestic Calling Plan” licenses in your tenant, you will need one (1) “US Domestic and International Calling Plan” and one (1) “UK Domestic and International Calling Plan” to make this work for users in both countries. 
  • International Calls using this license configuration are billed by the minute against your Communications Credit “account”. You can see the per minute rates from the originating country at the bottom of the Microsoft Teams Phone web page. 
  • Using this option, to license five (5) “US” based users to make international calls you will need five (5) “US Domestic Calling Plans”, one (1) “US Domestic and international Calling Plan” and “Communications Credits”. 

Configuring US based Calling Plan Users to make Calls to US & Canada---ONLY! 

Dial Out Policy 

  • If you want to permit End-User PSTN calls to Canadian numbers, assign one of these Dial Out Policies: 

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To permit Audio Conferencing PSTN calls to Canadian numbers, assign one of these Dial Out Policies: 

 

 

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To permit calls to Canadian numbers for both call types, select one of these policies: 

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License 

  • Option 1 
  • Assign a “US Domestic and international Calling Plan” to “US” based users. 
  • This gives these users the license needed to place calls to all countries. 
  • Assign the “Communications Credits” license. 
  • Option 2 
  • Assign a “US Domestic Calling Plan” to your “US” based users. 
  • If you own a “US Domestic and international Calling Plan” in your tenant, DO NOT assign “Communications Credits” to these users. 
  • This licenses the users to dial any phone number in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada only. 

How does the Second Option work? 

  • If you do not have any “Domestic and International Calling Plans” in your tenant, you can assign the “Communications Credits” license to the users.  
  • They will be able to call Canadian numbers, but they will not be able to call any other international number. 
  • They won’t have a license, or combination of licenses, that will permit international calls. 
  • If you have a “Domestic and International Calling Plan” in your tenant, don’t assign “Communications Credits” to the users. 
  • They will be able to call Canadian numbers, but they will not be able to call any other international number. 
  • Their licenses will not permit calls to international numbers. 
  • Assigning a dial out policy that permits calls to “Zone A countries” or international numbers will allow calls to Canadian numbers for the specific call type. 

Potential Downside to the Second Option 

  • The users will not be “protected” by the “Communications Credits” license if the pooled minutes for the “Domestic Calling Plan” in the tenant are used up before the end of the current month. 
  • They will not be able to use the dial-out or pay per minute feature of Dial In conferencing for calls to non “Zone A” countries. 
  • They will not be covered if the pooled Audio Conferencing dial-out or “call me at” minutes are used up in the current month. 

How big a problem is this? 

  • Yes, if: 
  • You regularly run out of pooled minutes in your Calling Plan and switching to higher capacity Calling Plans is not an option. 
  • Your regularly run out of pooled dial-out or “call me at” Audio Conferencing minutes. 
  • You place calls to non “Zone A” countries when using either the dial-out or “call me at” features. 
  • No, if: 
  • You don’t regularly run out of pooled minutes in your Calling Plans. 
  • You don’t run out of pooled dial-out or “call me at” minutes. 
  • You don’t use the dial-out or “call me at” features to call non “Zone A” countries. 
  • If you are unsure, consider the following about pooled minutes: 
  • Calling Plans 
  • The most common “US Domestic Calling Plan” includes 3,000 minutes per month of calling to numbers in the US, Puerto Rico and Canada. 
  • 3,000 minutes is fifty (50) hours. 
  • A typical work week is forty (40) hours and there are 160 working hours in a typical month. 
  • A user who uses all 3,000 of their monthly minutes will have been on outbound PSTN calls for 31 % of their working hours in a month. This equates to about 2 ½ hours a day for outbound calls to PSTN numbers. 
  • If you own ten (10) of these licenses, you will have 30,000 pooled minutes per month of outbound PSTN calling time. 
  • Look at the “PSTN Minute and SMS pools” Usage Report in your Teams Administration Center to see how many pooled minutes per month you are using! You are probably not coming close to consuming your available pooled minutes! 
  • Dial-Out and “call me at” pooled minutes 
  • Every user who has the Audio Conferencing license or feature assigned to them gets sixty (60) minutes of both dial-out and “call me at” pooled minutes. 
  • Each of the features has a separate monthly pool of minutes. 
  • The number of minutes in each pool is determined by the number of Audio Conferencing licenses that have been assigned to user. Assigned, not owned. 
  • If you have assigned fifty (50) licenses, you will have 3,000 minutes or dial-out and 3,000 minutes of “call me at” minutes per month available to all fifty (50) users. 
  • In general, neither of these features is heavily used by most organizations. 
  • You can find your monthly usage of these features in the same report. 

Summary 

  • “US Domestic Calling Plan” licenses now include calls to Canada. 
  • Canada is still treated as a “Zone A” or international country in the Teams Dial-Out Policies. 
  • If you have a “US Domestic and International Calling Plan” in your tenant, and you have assigned “Communications Credits” licenses to your users, your users will be able to make calls to any country on the planet! If you remove the “Communications Credits”, they will only be able to call numbers in the US, Puerto Rico and Canada. 
  • In general, there will not be a practical downside to not assigning “Communications Credits” for most users. 

 


 

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