T-Mobile announced a new call fraud blocking service called ScamShield today. Fellow analyst Anshel Sag and I wanted to weigh in on the specifics, how it compares to existing offerings from AT&T and Verizon, and where we believe T-Mobile is delivering added value to its subscribers above its competitors.
T-Mobile’s announcement is a rebranding of a prior offering with some new enhancements. It is also something that the carrier stated it has been working to develop over the past several years. The company claims that it has embedded artificial intelligence and machine learning into its core network that updates threat protection every 6 seconds. Furthermore, ScamShield itself is device-agnostic and includes a limited personal monitoring service and free Caller ID, the latter of which operators have traditionally charged subscribers in an effort to boost ARPU (average revenue per unit). ScamShield also includes the ability to change an existing number for free, as well as offers a no cost second number and voicemail box that does not require dual SIM support. Interestingly, the second number can be shared with other members within the same group plan and serves as another layer of defense for managing unwanted calls. ScamShield will be available on July 24th and will require a downloaded app. There is no additional charge for current T-Mobile, Sprint, and Metro subscribers, but a premium service will be available for $4 per month per line for postpaid accounts only (excluding Metro) and offer call block lists and automatic call to voicemail sacking. Magenta Plus subscribers will receive these enhanced services at no additional cost.
AT&T and Verizon offerings
AT&T launched a free anti-robocall service in 2016 with its Call Protect and Mobile Security platform. It is a basic spam filtering service, but for $3.99 per month per line, subscribers can upgrade to take advantage of Wi-Fi VPN, safe browsing, personal ID monitoring and Caller ID. Verizon also launched its Call Filter service in 2019. Similar to AT&T, it offers a no cost anti-robocall service. However, at $2.99 per month per line or $7.99 per month up to 3 lines, it provides spam lookup, personal block listing, spam risk metering and Caller ID. These basic services have been U.S. federal government mandates, but Anshel Sag and I question how effective they have been in addition to what T-Mobile offered before today’s announcement. Spam and scam calls are still a problem, and it seems to be getting worse based on our personal experiences with friends and family members.
From our perspective, the differentiation in the T-Mobile ScamShield offering is free Caller ID and a second number that can be used as a safe backup for loyalty programs, retail purchases and other transactions. The second number service could also serve as a honeypot for T-Mobile to actively filter scammers out of their network. The FCC will require all carriers in the U.S. to use Caller ID identification by 2021 for spam blocking which may have been a key driver behind the T-Mobile announcement. The technology platform to be used is called STIR (Secure Telephone Identity Revisited) / SHAKEN (Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using Tokens) – and it is not a reference to a James Bond movie! STIR/ SHAKEN validate the Caller ID data between carriers and ensures that data matches the caller’s phone number before completing a call. This technology and its implementation by all three U.S. carriers is necessary because many scammers spoof their Caller ID to appear as a legitimate business name and number.
Is this a preemptive move on T-Mobile’s part ahead of the FCC requirement? Possibly, but it demonstrates the company’s willingness to extend additional features to its subscribers and forego a potentially lucrative Caller ID revenue stream. Some might point to this announcement as a natural progression, but there is no doubt that it falls in line with T-Mobile’s track record of delivering great consumer value and improving the mobile experience.
Note: This blog contains contributions from analysts Anshel Sag and Patrick Moorhead.