A month after the first-ever Lync Conference, Microsoft is announcing new development for its business-oriented communications platform. Lync will expand to support new third-party video teleconferencing vendors over the next 18 months, and AT&T is adding Lync to its Unified Communications (UC) portfolio of collaboration solutions.

Microsoft had announced at Lync Conference 2013 in February that it would combine the Lync and Skype back-ends over the next 18 months. Voice and instant message (IM) capabilities will come online first, by mid-year, and then Skype-to-Lync video conferencing capabilities will be added by early 2014. But Skype isn’t the only way in which Lync will expand to integrate with other solutions.

In a post to The Lync Team Blog this week, Microsoft explains that Lync provides video interoperability with other systems via a Microsoft Lync Video Interoperability Program (VIP) that tests and qualifies partners’ video solutions. Today, partners such as Polycom, LifeSize, Vidyo, and Radvision (Avaya) already deliver solutions that allow video interoperability between Lync and hardware-based video teleconference (VTC) and telepresence systems. But more is coming, and Microsoft has been working with Cisco in particular to integrate those systems.

“Lync will support video interoperability with Cisco/Tandberg VTCs within 12-18 months,” the post notes. “With this capability ‘built in’ to Lync, third-party gateways … will no longer be required to achieve interoperability.” Microsoft says this interoperability will reduce complexity, eliminate the need for customers to purchase or maintain additional equipment, and provide more choice to enterprises as they deploy and adopt Lync as their unified communications platform.

Separately, AT&T announced this week that it is combining Microsoft Lync with its global IP network. “Company employees can use a wide range of connected devices such as PCs, tablets and smartphones as Lync enables voice and video sharing across most major operating platforms including Windows, Windows Phone, iOS and Android,” the announcement says. AT&T customers can choose to run Lync in their own on-premise datacenter, have it hosted by AT&T, or hosted as part of Office 365. In each case, it will be delivered over AT&T’s network.