T-Mobile and AT&T have formed an unlikely alliance to stop robocalls from reaching customers, the self-proclaimed 'un-carrier' has now announced.
The tie-up introduces caller authentication measures based on the FCC's Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) solution. The agency proposed the solution as a way to stop wireless customers within the US from receiving unwanted and often criminally-malicious robocalls.
In a nutshell, the solution marks and verifies phone calls made across the networks, checking the origin of the call against registries. The authenticating method also pulls in device identification metrics to ensure that phone numbers aren't spoofed. That all happens at the network level. So if the data doesn't match up, the calls don't go through.
How does this really impact T-Mobile customers?
The new tentative partnership may not stop robocalls across the board but it does stop robocalls between two companies. That's important for T-Mobile customers because, although this isn't huge for AT&T customers, this isn't the first of these partnerships for T-Mobile.
Just three months ago, T-Mobile partnered with Comcast in a similar arrangement to stop robocalls between customers on those networks. Like the new arrangement with AT&T that team-up doesn't extend to other carriers but it does bring the total number of carrier networks protected against robocalls to at least two, for T-Mobile customers.
Any MVNOs operating on Comcast and AT&T backbones would presumably have the same protections.
Pending the company's merger with Sprint, that leaves just one and possibly up to three carriers with which T-Mobile needs to form this type of partnership.
T-Mobile customers could view the partnerships as a kind of start to a web designed to catch undesirable communications. Each partnership forms a single strand of the web with those intertwining across communications. Once it has finished building alliances on that front, its customers will have a complete safety net built from those individual strands.
For now, communications between Sprint and T-Mobile or Verizon and T-Mobile are not protected. If the merger between the former pairing goes through, it will still likely need to form a partnership between the new company that will form Sprint's left-over assets — namely, DISH.
That means T-Mobile customers will face less risk that scams or other malicious activity will impact them with calls spoofed from either Comcast or AT&T numbers.
…but this isn't just about T-Mobile and AT&T stopping robocalls
That means that T-Mobile is building a foundation for its competition too. Using the same web analogy, T-Mobile's pursuit of better robocall protection for its customers has effectively started a safety net for customers on other carriers' networks. Each of those, once T-Mobile has finalized team-ups with all of its US counterparts, will have already had the first partnership built.
Whether or not the carriers follow through on that to build more partnerships in a bid to stop robocalls with other rivals in the market remains to be seen. But it should at least be much easier to accomplish now that the groundwork has already been laid out by this anti-robocall team-up between AT&T and T-Mobile.