Microsoft Expands Teams Meetings To 20,000 People

Microsoft has introduced a range of new features to its Teams business communications system, including an option to host calls of up to 20,000 people, as coronavirus lockdown measures continue to boost demand for remote working.

The company said it is looking to fine-tune Teams to work with a “broad spectrum” of communications needs, from one-on-one meetings up to large events and conferences.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a broad shift to remote working, while also spurring large business events to move to an online-only format.

“During the crisis response to the pandemic, many organisations transformed rapidly in group meetings first, as evidenced by Microsoft Teams reaching 200 million participants in a single day,” said Teams general manager Nicole Herskowitz in a blog post.

Cloud calling

She added that Teams ranges up to broad scale company-wide events while also offering a new one-on-one cloud-based phone system.

Users will now be able to scale meetings up to 20,000 participants, with a limit to 1,000 for interactive meetings, after which the call automatically shifts to a “view only” mode.

Companies will be able to add corporate branding, starting with branded meeting lobbies “in the coming months”, followed by branded meeting experiences.

The branding option will require users to add an Advanced Communications plan to their an existing Microsoft 365 or Office 365 paid subscription, with plans available now and trial packages coming in mid-August.

A new cloud-based phone system called Teams Calling allows employees to interact with customers, partners and vendors via phone numbers, whether in the office, working remotely or a combination of the two.

The Yealink T56A Teams-enabled phone. Image credit: Microsoft

Teams Displays

The previously announced Teams Displays offers dedicated Teams devices with touch screens, calling and video and hands-free use powered by Cortana.

Microsoft said it will now offer extended support for Skype for Business phones beyond 2023 as users move to Teams, supporting core calling features on SIP phones from Cisco, Yealink, Polycom and others.  Support for SIP phones is to be available from the first half of next year.

Meanwhile, the company is introducing a line of phones supporting Microsoft Teams features, with physical buttons, high-quality audio and core calling features, designed for common areas and “basic information worker scenarios”.

Options are planned from AudioCodes, Poly and Yealink starting in early 2021.

Lenovo’s ThinkSmart Hub 500 with Teams support. Image credit: Microsoft

USB phones

The company said it is also planning new USB peripherals with dial pads and a modern Teams user interface for heavy call users.

The USB phones are designed to work out of the box, feature a Teams button and can link to either a PC or a Mac for a Teams audio experience.

The peripherals are planned to be available starting in late 2020, with the first devices set to arrive from Yealink, Microsoft said.

Microsoft Teams competes in the business communications market with offerings including Zoom and Google Meet, launched in April.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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