T-Mobile, Comcast launch anti-robocalling feature, claim industry's first

FILE PHOTO: A T-Mobile logo is seen on the storefront door of a store in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

NEW YORK (Reuters) - T-Mobile said on Wednesday it has launched a call protection feature with Comcast Corp to help protect customers from answering robocalls and spams, as robocalls have swollen into a tide numbering in the millions every day.

Robocalls, automated telephone calls that deliver a recorded message, typically on behalf of a political party or telemarketing company, are on the rise. T-Mobile said its new feature identifies authentic calls across the networks with the sign “Caller Verified” appearing on phone screens.

The feature will be available to T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers on certain smartphone devices by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and LG Electronics Inc, the mobile carrier said, adding that it is working with other phone makers like Apple Inc to launch the feature in the near future.

Last month, 5.2 billion robocalls were placed, an average of 168.8 million per day, according to YouMail, a robocall management company that tracks the volume of calls. Scams make up about 40 percent of all robocalls.

T-Mobile said its new feature will be available for Comcast Xfinity Voice home phone service customers later in the year.

The feature uses an industry standard, called “Secure Telephony Identity Revisited (STIR) and Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs (SHAKEN),” or STIR/SHAKEN, to identify authentic calls across the networks. In February, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai told major telecommunications providers that the agency would step in if they failed to implement the standard to fight robocalls this year.

“Robocalls and spam calls are an industry-wide problem, and we’ve got to join forces to keep consumers protected. Today, we’re the first to cross industry lines to do just that,” said John Legere, chief executive of T-Mobile.

While T-Mobile claims to be the first to implement the feature across two networks, AT&T in March announced that it had successfully tested what the company believes to be the first STIR/SHAKEN-authenticated call between two different telecom networks with Comcast.

Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Leslie Adler