The fight against robocalls can even bring telecom rivals together.
AT&T and Comcast said Wednesday that they can authenticate calls made between the two different phone providers’ networks, a potential industry first and the latest in the long-running battle against spam calls.
Using AT&T’s Phone digital home phone service and Comcast’s Xfinity Voice home phone service, the companies successfully tested the feature over regular consumer networks and not in a lab, the companies said.
The system, which uses a method developed in recent years, verifies that a legitimate call is being made instead of a one that has been spoofed by spammers, scammers or robocallers with a “digital signature.” The recipient network then confirms the signature on its side.
The companies said consumers will get a notification that a call is verified, but exactly what that will look like is not yet known.
Both AT&T and Comcast will roll out the system to home phone users later this year at no extra charge.
AT&T also said it will introduce the feature to its mobile users this year.
Other major wireless and traditional home voice providers have pledged support for the verification method, including Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Charter, Cox and Vonage, with several announcing plans to roll out or test the feature in 2019.
T-Mobile began rolling out verified calls on its mobile network earlier this year, though it currently only does so for calls between T-Mobile customers. You also need to have a compatible phone, currently limited to recent LG or Samsung models.
The progress comes amid increased wariness from consumers about robocalls and spoofed numbers. A February report from the Federal Communications Commission cited data from First Orion, a provider of phone call and data transparency solutions, that projected that 44.6 percent of calls to mobile phones in 2019 will be scam calls.
Earlier this month John Oliver, host of the weekly show “Last Week Tonight” on AT&T-owned HBO, took a shot at the FCC over its poor handling of controlling this outbreak.
Over 5 million people have watched the segment on YouTube, with Oliver taking the fight directly to the commission by creating an automated call to all five FCC commissioners every 90 minutes to get the agency to act on the epidemic.
By Eli Blumenthal