STIR/SHAKEN Impact: Carriers Grapple with Dynamic Robocall Landscape

By Greg Tavarez August 02, 2023

In a move against the incessant nuisance of robocalls, June 30, 2023, was marked as the third and final major deadline set by the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC (News - Alert). As a result, service providers across the U.S. are implementing STIR/SHAKEN, which promise to revolutionize call authentication and curb caller ID spoofing.

STIR/SHAKEN holds the potential to bring about a significant reduction in the plague of fraudulent calls that have plagued individuals and businesses alike. STIR focuses on verifying the legitimacy of calling numbers, ensuring they have not been tampered with or falsified. SHAKEN adds a crucial digital signature to calls, confirming the caller's authenticity.

With the introduction of STIR/SHAKEN, service providers are taking a massive stride toward enhancing call security and consumer protection. The recently released TNS Robocall Investigation Report delves deep into the intricacies of the shifting telecommunications landscape, highlighting the opportunities and challenges that carriers and regulators face as STIR/SHAKEN matures from its initial deployment phase to becoming a fully operational service.

One of the most promising findings is the decline in unwanted robocall traffic originating from Tier-1 carriers. In the first half of 2023, only 2% of unwanted robocall traffic came from the top 7 U.S. carriers, including Verizon (News - Alert), UScellular, T-Mobile, Lumen, Comcast, Charter and AT&T. This marks a considerable decrease from the 8% reported during the same period in the previous year. The progress can be attributed to the implementation of STIR/SHAKEN, with 80% of calls from Tier-1 carriers now being signed and authenticated through the protocols.

Still, despite the progress made by larger service providers, there remains a growing gap in STIR/SHAKEN call authentication between Tier-1 carriers and smaller service providers. While the latter are making strides in implementing the protocols, they are falling further behind their larger counterparts in signing voice traffic. This widening gap could pose a risk of lost voice traffic revenue for smaller carriers if they struggle to effectively sign calls.

It makes sense when 78% of Americans are more inclined to answer calls when caller ID displays a business logo or name, according to the report. This indicates a demand for branded calling, which carriers and regulators can capitalize on by increasing the volume of call traffic authenticated through STIR/SHAKEN. By doing so, legitimate brands can effectively reach customers with critical call information, fostering a more trustworthy and engaging calling experience.

As service providers see a decreasing number of unwanted robocall traffic, particularly the larger service providers, this does not necessarily mean robocallers are disappearing. They are simply adapting their strategies:

  • In the first six months of 2023, 70% of all unwanted robocall traffic originated from VoIP numbers.
  • AI voice scams and sophisticated deepfake technologies are more prevalent today, particularly among smaller providers. These malicious practices underscore the necessity of having robust call authentication standards in place to detect and notify users about potential spoofed numbers in real-time.

Again, this highlights the urgency of combating the issue, and it reinforces the value of STIR/SHAKEN implementation, which can help identify and block spoofed numbers used by bad actors launching robocall campaigns.

 “Over the past three years, carriers and the FCC can point to tangible progress in identifying illegally spoofed calls, authenticating caller ID data and, ultimately, protecting consumers from scam and nuisance robocalls,” said Denny Randolph, president of TNS’ (News - Alert) Communications Market business. “However, our half-year report reveals stiffening headwinds with call attestation accuracy, diminished carrier interconnectivity, and dropped traffic due to insufficient SIP peering – all of which can undermine the full benefits of STIR/SHAKEN if not addressed.”

The TNS Robocall Investigation Report paints a comprehensive picture of the ongoing efforts to combat robocalls and bolster call authentication through STIR/SHAKEN. The progress made by Tier-1 carriers is commendable, but the widening gap with smaller service providers does highlight the need for continuous vigilance and commitment to fight against unwanted and fraudulent calls.

Edited by Alex Passett
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