The big wireless and landline voice providers in the United States have been scrambling to develop anti-robocall technology for the last couple of years, and they’re beginning to use it in their live networks. But yesterday, Transaction Network Services (TNS) and Metaswitch announced that they’re offering a managed service to smaller carriers so that they can also support their customers with anti-robocall technology.
TNS and Metaswitch have developed a STIR/SHAKEN solution for tier 2 and tier 3 carriers to accommodate the FCC's new call-authentication requirements. The new Call Guardian Authentication Hub designed by TNS and Metaswitch is a fully managed, hosted service that enables signing and verifying caller ID.
The STIR/SHAKEN protocols were developed by industry groups ATIS and SIP Forum to tackle the issue of phone spamming and robocalls.
“The big reason we’re getting robocalls is it’s easy to spoof the caller ID,” said Joe Weeden, VP of fixed voice products with Metaswitch. “The idea behind STIR/SHAKEN is to put that trust back into the caller ID again.” He explained that service providers own the telephone numbers that are associated with their networks. Metaswitch’s technology overlays a public key software on the network, and it gives the owner of the telephone number an opportunity to “sign” or validate a call.
Jim Tyrrell, senior director of product marketing with TNS, gave an example using Verizon and AT&T. He said, “Verizon would know if a number is coming from its network. Verizon authenticates that the call is coming from its network, and when it hands it off to AT&T, AT&T validates the entire call.”
Although spoofers can spoof a telephone number, they can’t spoof the authentication signature.
With bigger carriers beginning to roll out STIR/SHAKEN technology, there’s more pressure now for smaller carriers to roll it out quickly, said Weeden. “We’re offering a simple and quick way of deploying STIR/SHAKEN,” he said. “We want to provide them with an economical way and quick way. TNS is managing it.”
According to TNS’ March 2019 Robocall report, just 10% of high risk robocalls originate from tier 1 carriers. Even though these carriers account for 75% of total call volume, most scam and fraud robocalls are likely not originating from phone numbers owned by any of them. Rather, the study found that the overwhelming majority of these calls are coming from smaller, non-tier 1 networks.
Paul Florack, VP of product management for TNS’ wholesale team, said TNS is well-suited to offer this hosted service to providers because they already connect to TNS’ cloud for number portability.
For the STIR/SHAKEN service, when calls are routed through TNS’ cloud, the technology will make decisions about what to do with calls. If it’s authorized it can go through. If not, the software will make decisions about how to treat the call. For instance, it could display a risk meter on the customer’s phone, indicating the call is coming from a suspicious source. Or it could set policies to always block certain numbers.