TNS Participates in FCC STIR/SHAKEN Summit

TNS Participates in FCC STIR/SHAKEN Summit

August 5th, 2019 - Telecom, Identity and Protection

By: Lavinia Kennedy, Director of Product Management

As the troublesome issue of robocalls continues to be a scourge for consumers, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) convened a summit in Washington, DC on July 11, 2019 focused on implementation of STIR/SHAKEN, the caller ID authentication framework designed to combat illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing in the United States and Canada.

This invitation-only summit brought together executives from top US mobile carriers, cable providers, industry leaders and technology providers that are developing and deploying solutions to combat robocalls. 

I was excited to be selected as a speaker and for the panel, “Using STIR/SHAKEN to Improve the Consumer Experience,” which examined how caller authentication reduces spoofed robocalls and improves the consumer experience.. 

As a testament to the interest in combating robocalls, the summit received broad media coverage including USA TodayNBC Nightly NewsConsumer Reports, Fierce Wireless, and Medium who all ran stories on the robocall problem and the panel’s commentary.

Key Insights Shared: 

I believe that STIR/SHAKEN is indisputably an essential foundational layer to combat spoofing. It increases analytics confidence…and improves the quality of the data in the reputation database, resulting in fewer spam calls and more legitimate calls making it to subscribers..

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai agreed and recognized that “There is no silver bullet to this problem, but we think a big part of the solution is to establish a call authentication framework.”

While STIR/SHAKEN is a foundational layer, it is only being implemented by the Tier-1 carriers that have VoIP and VoLTE networks This creates a gap between high-density urban consumers and smaller, rural subscribers.

TNS, in partnership with Metaswitch, is now offering the Call Guardian Authentication Hub to help address the STIR/SHAKEN gap. This hub is designed to bring robocall solutions to all providers regardless of carrier size or region. Now, rural and Tier-2 or Tier-3 carriers can use STIR/SHAKEN technology to combat robocalls and contain their reach. Most importantly, it brings a cost-effective way to quickly deploy a robocall solution to more North American carriers.

“The more information we can provide,” said Pai, “to the consumer through analytics, call validation and call origination data, the better experience we will deliver to subscribers.”

TNS Remains Focused on Combating Robocalls

A recent TNS study affirmed that while STIR/SHAKEN is an essential layer, providing call recipients with visual information and context on caller ID is important to improve answer rates.

The study’s finding includes: 

  • Displaying a STIR/SHAKEN indicator alone would not change consumer behavior on whether they would answer the call or not. Eight out of 10 people will NOT answer the call if only a telephone number and the STIR/SHAKEN validation indicator are displayed
  • Consumers are equally likely to block an incoming call that has been validated by STIR/SHAKEN than a call that has not been validated
  • Displaying the identity of the caller and the purpose of the call were the key drivers in the consumer’s decision whether to answer the call. Answer rates were a low 21% for a wanted call when only the telephone number (TN) is displayed vs 71% answer rate when more information is provided

Summit Panel Also Focused on Smaller Carriers

TNS’ managed service helps medium and small carriers quickly deploy STIR/SHAKEN and we are working with more than a dozen providers to deploy STIR/SHAKEN before the end of the year. Eighty-seven percent of the negative calls come from numbering resources outside of the top six carriers.

The summit also featured two additional panels. Major voice service providers offered an update on their progress in deploying STIR/SHAKEN and lessons learned from their networks and from testing inter-provider call signaling. A few panel takeaways were: 

  • STIR/SHAKEN verifies the validity of a calling number, but not the intent of the caller — meaning that bad actors can circumvent STIR/SHAKEN call authentication if they “legitimize” their call origination number
  • While many Tier-1 carriers are in the process of, or finalizing STIR/SHAKEN deployment, call authentication will need to extend across all voice traffic–including Tier-2 and Tier-3 carriers – in order to be effective
  • Many panelists noted that legitimate calls may be blocked under the new call authentication framework and highlighted a need to establish formal mechanisms for legitimate callers who believe their calls were erroneously blocked to lodge a complaint
  • Carriers will also need help from government entities to prosecute and stop bad actors as they are identified

The final panel discussed the deployment challenges facing smaller voice service providers, and cost-feasible solutions available to them today.

As noted above regarding the STIR/SHAKEN gap, addressing rural customers and smaller carriers is critical to holistically battling the robocall scourge. This is where TNS’ Call Guardian Authentication Hub can make a difference. It ably addresses many of the key concerns expressed by small providers: affordability, STIR/SHAKEN deployment and the ability to serve small communities.

TNS Continues Leadership Role

To address the fact that robocalls are eroding consumer trust in voice calling, TNS also announced this summer that major Tier-1 carriers are trialing a new feature to help subscribers better identify calls coming from legitimate businesses and organizations. 

Business ID is a new feature of Enhanced Caller ID that enables businesses or any legitimate call originator to protect their brand from call spoofing, increase call pickup rates, and improve the business-customer communications experience.

As the robocall assault continues unabated, TNS remains committed to finding new, sophisticated and affordable solutions. TNS embraces the foundation of STIR/SHAKEN and is working towards standards that can be applied universally to the robocall problem.

Further, TNS continues its monitoring of the growth and scale of illegal robocalls by publishing its Robocall Investigation Report. This report broke new ground in 2018 by empirically showing just how pervasive robocalls had become and at what scale.

This type of insight has proven equally beneficial to both industry and subscribers. TNS’ Robocall Report has shown how data combined with the efforts of industry and government can result in a coordinated endeavor to eliminate or at least slow the unfettered growth of this nuisance but ultimately predatory practice.

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