Continuing the fight against unwanted robocalls, carriers T-Mobile US and Sprint say they have implemented STIR/SHAKEN number verification across their networks. The two companies called the effort “an important step in the industry’s ongoing fight against unwanted scam and spam calls.”

STIR/SHAKEN, or Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs (SHAKEN), is a framework for ensuring the authenticity of a given call—that it is actually coming from the number and/or caller ID which is displayed and not being spoofed, which is a common tactic for unwanted and/or malicious spam calls.

T-Mobile US in particular has been at the forefront of STIR/SHAKEN deployment, as the first to announce readiness for the standards in late 2018 and then the first implementer, with its Caller Verified offering launching last year at this time on Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9.  Caller Verified provides users with an on-screen message that an incoming call is verified as coming from a non-spoofed source, and it’s now operable on 23 smartphones with more to come, T-Mo said.

“We’re in an arms race with these scammers, and we’ve got to join forces as an industry to keep all wireless customers protected,” said John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile. “We were first to announce readiness for STIR/SHAKEN, first to implement Caller Verified, and today we lead the industry with the most cross-network STIR/SHAKEN partnerships to keep consumers better protected. T-Mobile will keep innovating and delivering on the frontlines in the battle against unwanted calls, and we won’t stop.”

The carrier said that its STIR/SHAKEN implementation now works across four networks: AT&T, Sprint, Comcast Xfinity Voice home phone service, and Inteliquent.

“As more network providers across the industry implement the standards and more device providers participate, more calls will be verified over time, keeping consumers better protected,” T-Mo noted in a release.

On Sprint’s side, it offers both a free and a premium call screening service offering: its Sprint Call Screen Basic for free, which identifies unwanted malicious calls and permits users to block them, and the Sprint Call Screener Plus premium service that offers more detailed call identification and blocking options.

”While all carriers compete fiercely in the marketplace, we all agree that the industry-wide plague of robocalls and scammers must be tackled arm-in-arm with other carriers as we put the latest technology to work to help protect our customers,” said Sprint CEO Michel Combes. “STIR/SHAKEN is one tool among many that Sprint is utilizing in a multi-year anti-robocalling development program to improve our customers’ experience.”

ATIS established a testbed hosted by Neustar Trust Labs for STIR/SHAKEN several years ago, to help with implementation, and carriers including T-Mobile US have since leveraged that testbed as part of their efforts to put the STIR/SHAKEN framework in place. The testbed allows SHAKEN testing by generating end-to-end calls and enables operators and vendors to ensure interoperability, both for SHAKEN components and for complete network implementations.

The Federal Communications Commission has recommended the use of the STIR/SHAKEN framework as a tool to help combat the millions of unwanted and scam robocalls that pester mobile users each year. It complements other efforts such as increased federal enforcement, with the FCC announcing last week  proposing a $12.9 million fine against an alleged malicious robocaller. The Federal Trade Commission has brought enforcement actions against robocallers as well, and last week said that it recently sent letters to nearly 20 voice over Internet protocol providers warning them that “knowingly facilitating” illegal robocalls or telemarketing is also illegal. The names of the warned companies were not disclosed.


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