T-Mobile and Comcast have announced a partnership to combat robocalling by using the STIR/SHAKEN protocol to authenticate calls made between their respective networks.
“Robocalls and spam calls are an industry-wide problem, and we’ve got to join forces to keep consumers protected. Today, we’re the first to cross industry lines to do just that,” said T-Mobile CEO John Legere, in a statement.
Well, “first” is debatable. Comcast last month announced that it had jointly and successfully tested a collaborative STIR/SHAKEN effort with AT&T.
But there seems to be industry-wide consensus among telecom operators that robocalling is a problem for their customers, who last year suffered through 26 billion unwanted calls. In February, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai warned telecom companies that he would step in if they didn’t do something to combat the robocalling issue.
So what is STIR/SHAKEN?
STIR is short for Secure Telephony Identity Revisited. The SHAKEN acronym is a bit more of a reach—it stands for Secure Handling of Asserted (information using) Tokens. The “ken” in token comprises the last part of the acronym.
The protocol seeks to authenticate calls by using digital certificates that determine where the call actually originates from. If a caller is successfully authenticated, T-Mobile will display “Caller Verified” on the receiving user's smart phone. In its press release today, T-Mobile said it can now port this message into the caller ID displays of 10 smart phones, including the full line of Samsung Galaxy devices.
“Fraudulent robocalls hurt everyone, so we want to give consumers more power to protect themselves,” added Eric Schaefer, senior VP and GM of broadband and communications services at Comcast Cable. “Our engineers played a key role in developing this technology for the entire industry, and we are happy to work with T-Mobile to deliver another first in the fight against fraudulent robocalls. In the coming weeks, we’ll be exchanging authenticated calls with more providers across the industry as we come together to tackle this problem.”