Why Lync Mobile Call-Via-Work Makes Sense



Earlier this week, Microsoft released the Lync 2010 Mobile clients for all major platforms. (See more about that here http://lync.microsoft.com/en-us/Product/UserInterfaces/Pages/lync-2010-mobile.aspx)

With that release, a lot of people are talking about the lack of Voice over IP calling over 3G of Wifi in the product. Instead, Microsoft implemented a solution used for many years, referred to as “Call-Via Work”.

What is Call-Via-Work?

Call via work enables enterprises to deploy a consistently reliable enterprise voice solution to all mobile endpoints connecting to the Lync infrastructure. This functionality essentially bridges calls through the cell phone carrier network, and gives the appearance of a SIP call through your Lync identity.

This solution offers some great benefits:

  • A true “single number” solution, your identity is your work number. You can make or receive calls on this number from any device.
  • Battery friendly. This solution allows for users to actually utilize the tested and proven technology available on cell phones for years, reducing the impact on battery life when compared to a Voice over 3G, 4G or WiFi call.
  • Lync mobile users can call federated contacts. The call via work option allows users to make Lync calls to federated partners the same way it does to internal enterprise users, this is great because there is no gap in user capabilities from desktop to mobile.
  • I’ll say it again, Reliability! End users want a consistent experience, and do not want to be worried about the type of connection they are on when making a business call. Lets keep in mind, Lync is a business platform.

In some instances, VOIP makes sense, and lets face it, its kind of a popular technology right now. Everyone wants VOIP, not all end users know why they want it, but its just the new technology to use for most of them. However, it is important to understand that while it is a cool technology, with some potential for cost savings, a true enterprise grade solution cannot provide a reliable experience with VoIP on mobile devices, yet.

The potential savings that would be introduced through a VoIP solution deployed with Lync Mobile would definitely be eaten up by:

  • An overhaul of your Wireless Infrastructure. (If you want to deploy those fancy Cisco WAPs to support mobile VOIP, say good bye to any cost savings introduced by VOIP calling on your mobile)
  • Help Desk costs are a real problem in enterprise environments, these would definitely increase as users start having a poor experience when in an airport, or in a faux 4G area on an overloaded cell tower that provides limited bandwidth.
  • Costs for data vs cell minutes. Not many people know, but it isn’t always true that cell phone data is cheaper than cell phone minutes. Specifically when in roaming, and roaming international scenarios.In some instances, a roaming international 3G or 4G call could cost as much as 50 times more per minute than a roaming cell call…

So, to summarize:

Microsoft has done their research, they are not ignoring the fact that enabling mobile endpoints to communicate anywhere through their enterprise environment is important. What they are doing is deploying it properly! I would rather have a working, reliable solution, than have all the features in the world, that work half the time and provide me with a poor experience.

About Randy Wintle

Unified Communications Architect

Posted on December 15, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Andreas Georgsson

    Why not leave a option to the user to choose inbound/outbound SIP (3G/4G/WiFi) or GSM Call, smart thinking would solve the problems. If you are on the move you could get an alert that you are leaving good coverage and that the call will be moved to GSM. The function would be to use Call Park and inform the other end that the call soone will be resumed.

    Flat rate for 3G is here, the dataroaming costs are going down since the operators can’t motivate the cost since they pay very little or nothing for dataroaming.

    Also many companies uses mobile phones inside there premises and have 3G coverage or WiFi, and smart WiFi infrastructure already in place for supporting moving WiFi devices are already inplace for large business.

    So why not offer the choice?

    I think it is time, they could not deliver a fully working solution in time and since they promised to deliver before year end, they needed som working phone function.

    • I agree the option to use Cell network or IP Network would be great for IT folks like us, however the solution would only be incredibly confusing for the average Lync user.

      The goal is a simple, functional solution that allows any user to have a smooth experience whether they are the guy implementing the solution, or the executive signing the checks.

  2. Using a cell connection isn’t more reliable and requires enterprise voice. I would like to make a LYNC call to a contact from my mobile and it would still work for LYNC online or non enterprise voice customers. I am pleased with LYNC mobile but I think lack of LYNC calling or voip is a shortcoming. let me ask you back, what is the difference between this and como for windows mobile 6.5? I would like to see progress.

    • Good points.

      As far as the como comment, I agree a lot of the core functionality is the same. They totally revamped the way the client works to improve performance and battery impact. Additionally, I do not think one click conference joins were available in como.

  3. Call via work is a much more predictable and transferable model. For example In the UK where the government made £28Bn from the 3G auctions the providers have to jealously protect their call revenue.

    There are competing services that aren’t fully supported or are at a premium when used over a providers 3G network and there is nothing to say that a provider couldn’t act in the future to engineer network performance to disrupt IP voice even if encrypted.

    The final nail in the coffin is that guess what Microsoft want you to buy the Plus CAL.

    Call via work is globally consistent, won’t fall foul of carriers in domestic markets and is more commercially attractive for Microsoft, I guess we have to get used to it.

  4. I guess my thoughts are that it would be nice to have a voip option. Having said that most data networks currently designed for mobile devices (both wifi and mobile data networks) have issues that cause the experience to be very subpar.

    For example: we could argue that there should be VoIP option for companies that have WIFI. But what about the senario that the user is walking around while using their android/ipad device over wifi and the corporate WIFI does not support seamless roaming between WIFI access points? The experience will be bad. If we are going to provide an enterprise voip solution over wifi for mobile devices, that is only intended for when they are sitting still in a conference room/coffee shop, then we need the ability to enforce that. Perhaps a GPS could call pause call/notifiy user if they start moving, or some other safety mechanism, but no solution i know of has this type of control.

    We could think of the few senario’s where the enterprise truly has voip capable wifi that allows users to roam between wifi access points. This is good, but what about when they “accidentally” or intentionally “roam” outside this excellent wifi?

    Truly most people asking for VoIP are not wanting/thinking to merely stay inside the corp. WIFI and the question of roaming between WIFI/mobile data network/mobile voice network comes up. How do we handle when users “roam” between corp. wifi and mobile data plans? Current solutions require the users to be smart and know when to do this. Most will not be smart and the experience will be bad. For a true ent. solution once again you can’t expect the user to do the right thing–they wont. It seems to me there needs to be a reasonably seemless way to “roam” wireless networks with minimal user intervention. How will this happen? (Automatic call park for the remote party if mobile side gets disconnected? that puts the caller in voicemail if a certain amount of time passed and mobile party does reconnect? this might require forcing the call to go through server so it can handle ungracefully exited calls?)

    Finally, if we solve all the above issues, the issue of unreliable 3G networks persists. The feedback I’m getting is that people who live/move/work in 4G areas are reporting that it does voice over VoIP very well. (video may be hit/miss?) For the vast majority of the world still in 3G (or less), voice over VoIP is unreliable and gives the experience one might expect from an experimental project.

    So to wrap up I guess my thoughts are that, yes, UC vendors can release Voice over VoIP mobile clients, but the pipe delivering our UC interactions is still is causing some fairly sizeable challenges and makes the resulting UC experience feel “experimental”. And its not the UC vendors that are at fault: its the weak pipe.

    here is my article that looks at various uc vendors comments about mobile voip:

    • So that is a shameless plug (Matt) if I ever saw one :). That said, it is undeniable that customers are asking for voice, video and conferencing in these mobile clients. does it make sense, I don’t always think so, but they are asking for it.

      Regarding Como in WinMo 6.5, one click join for audio conferencing was in for OCS R2 and it worked nicely. It was actually very popular with the customers that used it.

      I think that the capabilities being available based on the device is what makes the most sense.

  5. @scavali actually after i reread the comment i almost thought the comment better than the blog. 😉 but the blog post just source for my comments…and, your right and i confess, a shamless plug. 😉

  6. As I pointed out on my blog – VOIP on a mobile client is not always a slam dunk. For it to work, you either need great wireless for the last hop, or a cheap mobile data plan. When you start to add VOIP calls to an already stressed wireless network you risk dissatisfaction and help desk calls. Of course, you can re provision this, but that’s can be a huge expense. Using the carrier’s mobile data plan might make sense, but as I pointed out on my blog entry, http://tfl09.blogspot.com/2011/12/lync-2010-lync-mobile-client.html, you can end up paying 5 times the cell call price to make a voip call for those of us who roam a lot. For enterprises today, it seems to me that what the new Lync Client offers hits a nice sweet spot.

  7. Francois Doremieux

    Great post and good discussion. Thanks Randy, Matt, folks. I’d like to add my 2 cents to a couple of aspects.

    The first one is Sam’s question on the differences between Como (Communicator Mobile for OCS 2007 R2 on Windows Mobile 6.5) and Lync Mobile. I think Sam is implying that there is no difference. I see it quite differently.

    The first difference is that Lync Mobile does what it does much better than Como used to.

    I have used Como for a long time. In my experience, it was adequate when I wanted to initiate brief IM sessions, but had lots of flaws beyond that. I found that if I wanted it to run it permanently, so that it would be my primary IM client and I would depend on it for incoming IM to me, it would burn through my battery like a hot knife through butter. In spite of improvements to the way presence was queried in Como, use of low level protocols meant some chattiness and a fairly high rate of data transfer. When the data connection was poor, the conversation could be a bit fragile. Also, in my experience, Call via Work was unreliable, and as a result I ended up using it very rarely.

    In my few months of using it in our internal Microsoft dogfood deployment, Lync Mobile takes care of these issues and provides a highly usable, effective solution that I can run continuously, that is reliable and that does not kill my battery or my data plan. Call via Work works extremely well and reliably for me and I use it all the time. This is a real difference in terms of making Lync Mobile a real enterprise grade solution for me, and giving me the opportunity for more than spot use.

    And it does all of that with an infrastructure and topology which makes significantly more sense from an architecture and topology and operations point of view. This highly increases the likelihood customers will actually deploy and support the solution.

    But to me there is one new feature that in itself justifies the full story – that’s one click join to conference. Say I am in my car in traffic, running late. Windows Phone pops up a meeting reminder. One touch conference join makes it so much easier to join that conference call!

    I was recently abroad for several weeks. I have a SIM unlocked device and popped into it a local SIM. I set Call via Work for that SIM DID. Incoming calls were free. I had hours of calls (both calls I placed using Call via Work and received, via SNR using simulring, and conference calls) for less than $25 that month. Parties calling me never knew… Could not have done it practically with Como.

    Last, Sam – I disagree with your point that using a cell connection is not more reliable than a data connection. No way I want to conduct an important business meeting on free wifi at an airport, or on UMTS or 3G (which by the way would probably be a violation of my contractual terms of service with my mobile operator). 4G, in high density areas, likely will be a different thing – but it’s far from ubiquitous today. Cellular is by far most reliable today.

    • @Francois, I actually agree with many of your points. My comment on cell connection not being more reliable is more tongue in cheek as since I have moved to SoCal from NY, I find my dropped calls have more than quadrupled and in a less predictable fashion, but I digress.

      I do agree, Lync mobile is definitely better on battery and is a more enterprise ready solution, but I would say that using free wifi at airports or at the local coffee shop for voice/conferencing has been a selling point for Lync/OCS since 2007. I hope that story isn’t changing now. Heck, I have been in sessions where we have heard anecdotal stories of folks using the wifi on an airplane to join conferences. So to suggest that business isn’t conducted in these types of environments isn’t really fair.

      Overall, my point is that call via work is only a benefit for those with enterprise voice. A user that has a wifi connection could benefit from a lync call if that were available. Now, I don’t profess to speak for all customers. I know Francois that you have heard the feedback as well as I, so there isn’t a need to hash that out here :).

      • Hi Sam,
        I too have conducted the occasional call on gogo wifi while at 36,000 feet. In some cases it’s been surprisingly good (latency being the most noticeable part of it). In others it’s been entirely dysfunctional. Packet loss of 30% or more, etc.
        Same experience at public wifi hotspots. You rarely know what you are going to be getting, regardless of whether you use a PC or a mobile wifi client. If you are planning an outbound call, you can test the network (for example with Lync’s echo service, or using the PreCallDiagnostics tool, or running some pings) and decide to use your Lync client if the network is decent. That’s your coffee shop experience, and it’s still there on your laptop (which by the way still gives us orders of magnitude more capabilities to heal the media and make it sound good as compared to a mobile device).
        On the other hand, as an Enterprise Grade client, you must be able to receive or place calls quasi-instantly, without having to test the network first or reconfigure everything. Most users are just not as geeky as the rest of us. They want it to just work, regardless of whether they are in the “right” hotspot or not.
        As for your last point – why not enable the users for EV? I don’t care if they still have a phone on their desk or not. But what I am sure of is that you can enable them for EV for less cost than most FMC solutions out there…
        And yes, we hear the feedback. And nobody is saying Microsoft is not working on the next layer of capabilities beyond what you just saw. Our point is only that we had to first build a very solid layer of Enterprise Grade capabilities as a foundation. We hope we have done that.

  8. @Francois,

    I too agree with most of your points. However, we continue running into clients who travel globally, and have insane mobile costs. If a salesman is on a client’s premise where there is good, predictable WiFi, why not leverage for a voip call? Coffee shop? No. But to use your aproach we must take away the “bring your own (mobile) device to work concept, and require remote/travelling workers to have unlocked phones, and then have them (untechnical, sales people) change out sim cards as they move through regions – far from optimal.

    There is always AudioCodes and Altigen (proprietary Lync clients) to watch…


    • @Michael, no contest – there absolutely are specific situations where using VoIP would be both feasible technically (such as network access), acceptable quality wise and save money. Skype provides many examples of that all the time. If used smartly, it can be just right.

      And nothing prevents your customers from using Skype (or even the clients you mention) in that context already. Incidentally, if this was such a problem for your customers or if VoIP on mobile was such a home run, wouldn’t they already be using it?

      On the other hand, used “not so smartly” such as on roaming 3g or 4g, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Say I am logged on Vo3G and my best customer calls… I might feel compelled to take it and might ignore the potential cost (till I get the bill). Or used on poor network, it can make for a very unproductive call. Or I’ll just save on some of my bill, but still will have to place a lot of calls on international roaming.

      My point: you still need your non-technical sales person to make a decision about which calls are ok to do on VoIP and which ones are not… Call via Work takes the need for that decision away and works reliably.

      If you have a user predictably costing you an arm and a leg in roaming charges, I am sure you could put in place a loaner cell program as part of the company’s travel arrangement policies, and end up with a quasi 0 cost situation.

      But let’s say you don’t have that program, and the user is not changing her SIM. With CvW, you have replaced outbound international roaming calls (often $3 per minute or more) with inbound calls which cost “only” a roaming charge in most countries (say $1 per minute). The international portion is taken care of on company trunks at negotiated rates. Does not remove all cost, but can take a huge chunk out…

      Bottom line: CvW could already save your customers money. Let’s start with that. Where needed, they can use Skype or other solutions or processes to handle a few exceptions. Meanwhile VoIP infrastructure is progressing, and I am sure there will be a time to take advantage of that even more pervasively…

  9. Also, on data consumption improvements, another interesting and creative post by Matt:

    This is of course only directional, a single test, but it’s certainly indicative of the direction in which Lync Mobile improved from Como.

  1. Pingback: Hvorfor Lync mobilklient samtaler via mobilnett er fornuftig. | Blog for prosjekt samordnet kommunikasjon

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