Polycom UCS 5.3 for VVX Has Arrived for Lync and Skype!

I was fortunate enough to be able to write a guest blog post for Polycom due to my excitement about the feature enhancements that have arrived with UCS 5.3.  You can find that post and the same content here: http://community.polycom.com/t5/The-View/New-UCS-5-3-Lync-Features-on-VVX-Phones-Generates-Some/ba-p/71419 

In a nutshell, this update has features that throw it far ahead in the game and finally bring us long anticipated features such as the ability to split the media path and move it from PC to phone.  I want to specifically thank Peter Huboi (@UCwPOCN) for allowing me to do this.

As a Beta trial participant for UCS 5.3, I was very excited to see that some of the Lync features were being previewed at Enterprise Connect in Orlando just ahead of its official release. Being in the Beta trial, I was subject to non-disclosure terms of the Beta Agreement, but now that UCS 5.3 software is available on the support site, I wanted to share my experience with a few of my favorite new Lync features on Polycom VVX series phones and explain why these features are important.  I’m very excited that this product is finally available to the public, it’s a large leap forward with many features to talk about, but I’ll focus on these 5:

  • Calendar view
  • Native Lync conference control
  • Audio media path over Better Together over Ethernet (BToE)
  • Music on Hold
  • Enhancements to Boss/Admin (Shared Line Appearance)

Calendar view

One of the most anticipated features in my opinion is the calendar view enhancements.  With UCS 5.3, just hit the home button and your Exchange calendar is available.  You can easily scroll through today’s meetings (or pick any other day) and one-click join lets you jump right in.  If that’s not exciting enough, the one click join functionality goes beyond just Lync and Skype meetings, and the phone can now intelligently determine the phone number in a non-Lync meeting and allow you to dial with the tap of a button!  There is also now a pop-up reminder on the VVX phone that makes it very simple to join the scheduled call.  This enhancement can be a lifesaver as you don’t need your PC logged in or Outlook running to remember and quickly join that meeting, there’s a pop up reminder right there waiting for you on your VVX phone!  You can join the call at the same time you are sitting down in your chair.

Native Lync Conference Control

Hand in hand with the calendar’s ability to join a conference call, are a few new features associated with the Conference Control Channel Protocol (CCCP) which the VVX phone can now support. Not only can you initiate conference calls with your Lync contacts from your phone, you can view and manage conference participants, invite new participants, enable announcements, and lock a conference.  One button allows you to view the dial in number conference ID if you need to quickly let someone know without digging through Outlook.

One of the more useful features is this; if you have control of the call, and if there is some really noisy participant (traffic, noisy office etc.) that you can’t readily identify, you can simply mute all the participants with the click of button.

Audio media path over Better Together over Ethernet (BToE)

One feature Lync voice users love is the Better Together experience.  This feature allows you to pair your phone with your computer allowing both to be used seamlessly together.  Better Together over Ethernet was introduced in UCS 5.0, but UCS 5.3 adds the audio media path so that you can now use your VVX phone as the microphone and speaker for your PC client as well.  This seemingly small feature means a lot.  For example, if you want to use your Lync client for a video call, you can use the high quality audio of the VVX instead of the underwhelming audio quality of your laptop microphone and speaker, or relying on a separate USB headset. You can even listen to Pandora or Spotify on your VVX phone while working and if someone calls you on Lync, Lync takes precedence. Maybe not a feature that you’d use if you’re in an office cubicle every day, but if you are in a private office or teleworking from a VVX phone at home, this is a nice feature.

Music on Hold

Music on Hold is a conversation that needs to be had with every deployment.  Unlike other PABX vendors that support music on hold at the server level, Microsoft requires the client endpoints to supply this feature.  In this past, this has been difficult as even Microsoft’s own phone firmware available on the Polycom CX series didn’t offer you a choice you could customize.  With UCS 5.3, Polycom is the 1st to add it on any of the 3PIP qualified phones (Open SIP VoIP phones). The music file is streamed directly from the VVX phone. This feature is important to the calling party being put on hold because hearing music lets them know that they weren’t dropped instead of put on hold.  This also allows different phones or groups of phones to have customized music on hold.

Enhancements to Boss/Admin (Shared Line Appearance)

Similarly to Music on Hold, we can’t discuss a voice deployment without a conversation around multiple line appearances.  The assistant who needs the boss’ line on their phone or the group that can answer each other’s calls.   In Lync, this feature is most typically deployed through the use of delegates.  For example, the boss grants delegate rights to an assistant so they can screen inbound calls and make outbound calls on behalf of the boss.  This feature was available in a previous UCS release on VVX phones but the feature enhancements in UCS 5.3 make it much better. Now there can be multiple admins to manager relationships and the admins can have different rings for different executives/managers. What this really means is that one admin can go to lunch or take a break and know that the 2nd admin will be there to cover the executive. If the executive or manager regularly works 10-11 hour days, you might have one admin that starts a little earlier or later in the day to extend the coverage hours without having the admin have to keep the same insane hours as the executive.

There are of course many more feature enhancements, including updated BToE software for your computer, LLDP-MED support, and the ability to dial a +.  It’s been difficult keeping quiet about all the new features, but I’m thrilled to finally be able to share my experience with you and I strongly encourage you grab this update as soon as you can.  This is a big one and I know the community will love it.

2 thoughts on “Polycom UCS 5.3 for VVX Has Arrived for Lync and Skype!

  1. @gregseeber

    i have to admit, the provisioning server and just administering it in general is one of the must frustrating experiences i think i have ever encountered. nevertheless, great article. thanks!

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