T-Mobile throws down challenge to rivals on robocall efforts

T-Mobile kicked off its next “un-carrier” move today by announcing Scam Shield, aimed at scams and robocalls, and challenged its rivals Verizon, AT&T and others to catch up to its own efforts in fighting scams.

“This is a throwdown and a challenge for everybody else to catch up on STIR/SHAKEN. It’s a great technology, but people are behind. They’re not taking it seriously,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said during a conference call with reporters. “And a big piece of this is making sure to throw this issue into the limelight so everyone takes it seriously.”

On caller ID, “it’s almost shameful what’s going on in the industry because the rest of the industry is profiting from this phenomenon. I mean, billions of dollars. If Verizon gave everyone caller ID, the way we just did today, for free, indefinitely, because this is important and it’s right, it would cost them billions,” he said.

It’s the No. 1 pain point in the wireless industry in terms of complaints to the FCC, he said. (Separately, the FCC today adopted rules to further encourage phone companies to block illegal and unwanted robocalls before they reach consumers.)

People are being scammed and robbed, and “we need to stand up," Sievert said. "This is a comprehensive left to right solution” that puts it into customers’ consciousness because it’s going to take participation from consumers to make the feedback loop for AI as powerful as it can be to address the problems.

The FCC in March adopted rules requiring phone companies implement the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication protocol in their IP networks. The STIR/SHAKEN mandate (PDF) was approved unanimously, and the order sets a June 30, 2021, implementation deadline for all originating and terminating voice service providers. 

RELATED: FCC requires carriers to deploy STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication

Sievert conducted a webcast with Golden Globe and six-time Emmy nominee Anthony Anderson to announce T-Mobile's spam-fighting efforts. Earlier this year, T-Mobile said it was delivering STIR/SHAKEN number-verification across networks with Sprint and others and was expected to announce more implementations.

T-Mobile says its Scam Shield takes aim at scam and robocalls with an “unparalleled series of solutions.” Scam Shield is T-Mobile’s first “un-carrier” move since merging with Sprint and offers new, free protections for T-Mobile, Metro by T-Mobile and Sprint customers.

Launching July 24, Scam Shield includes free scam identification and blocking for all customers, provides more information about who’s calling with enhanced Caller ID and offers a free second number to keep the customer’s personal number “personal.”

T-Mobile is also offering new phone numbers to customers if their personal number has become a “spam magnet,” as well as, for a limited time, a free ID monitoring and alert service for 12 months from experts at McAfee.

T-Mobile points to third-party research that shows it’s already 30% better at identifying scam calls than other service providers. Because it's efforts are network-based, it's able to better protect customers rather than just through an app on a device. 

RELATED: Sprint consumer brand headed for summer sunset

T-Mobile also confirmed suspicions that it will be making a major merger milestone on August 2, when the company formally combines its operations with Sprint and unifies under the magenta T-Mobile brand in retail locations nationwide. It’s promising new plans to “bring even more competition to wireless than ever before.”