Another Telco Offers Office 365

AT&T is reselling Microsoft Office 365 services to small and midsize businesses.

Microsoft has substantially increased the number of carriers that are reselling Office 365 services. On Monday, AT&T began offering Microsoft Office 365 services to small and midsize businesses.

The Dallas-based telecommunications company is acting as a "syndication partner" and resells services that are hosted Microsoft's servers. AT&T offers its own technical and setup support as part of its TechSupport 360 service. Microsoft syndication partners can also bill their customers directly, which has been an evolving issue for Microsoft's partners.

AT&T offers three subscription-based plans, ranging from $8 to $20 per user per month, based on having a year-long contract in place. All of the plans include Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online and the use of Office Web Apps. However, the lowest cost plan just allows "view only" privileges for Office Web Apps; users don't have online editing and collaboration privileges.

The most expensive plan includes use of subscription-based Office Professional 2010, with bigger Exchange mailbox limits (up to 100GB per user). Office Professional 2010 isn't accessed online. It's installed on the customer's premises, but organizations may lose the rights to use it if they stop paying their monthly bills.

AT&T's announcement indicates that its Office 365 services include Lync PC-to-PC calling, instant messaging, Web conferencing, high-definition videoconferencing and presence capabilities. However, companies likely would need SIP trunking services from AT&T or some other provider to connect Lync voice-over-IP (VoIP) calls with users on the public switched telephone network. That point isn't explained in AT&T's literature and would presumably cost extra. AT&T's Office 365 description omits describing VoIP as part of the Lync Online offering, so it's a bit unclear.

The customer reach represented by telecommunications companies in reselling Office 365 services has the potential to help Microsoft carry out its cloud vision, a big corporate commitment that was enunciated by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer more than two years ago. For instance, just in terms of its wireless customers, AT&T reported in its third-quarter earnings statement that it had nearly 106 million in-service customers. The reselling of Office 365 services also can help ease companies into the idea of buying Microsoft's software on a monthly subscription-based rental basis, rather than the traditional "perpetual license" or "annuity license" purchase options where use rights for the software extends past the final purchase date.

Telco reselling of Office 365 services is on the rise. There were about 20 such companies last year, but that number has expanded to more than 35 today.

"We can confirm that there are currently over 35 syndication partners around the world with offers in-market," a Microsoft spokesperson stated via e-mail. "These include America Movil, AT&T, Bell Canada, Dell, Intercall, Korea Telecom, KPN, Mamut, NTT, Orange, Otsuka, Portugal Telecom, StarHub, Telefonica, Telekom Malaysia, Telisonera, TELMEX, UOI, UPC, Verizon, Vimpelcom and Vodafone among others." 

The spokesperson explained that under Microsoft's syndication partner model, "the Service Provider owns the relationship with customer and the billing relationship," as well as "tier 1 and tier 2 support."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.

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