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AT&T, T-Mobile put aside differences in team up to fight robocalls

The two rivals are putting aside their differences to fight the robocall epidemic.

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Robocalls have gotten so bad that even AT&T and T-Mobile are working together to fight them. 

Josh Miller/CNET

A common enemy can do wonders for bringing people and groups together, and the robocall plague has now done just that. On Wednesday AT&T and T-Mobile announced that they have begun rolling out a call authentication system to help protect their users from the annoying spam calls. 

Following the FCC-recommended STIR/SHAKEN protocol, the system works by having a caller's network send out a digital signature to signify that its number hasn't been spoofed or faked which the receiver's network then verifies.  An icon will then be displayed on the recipient's screen to indicate that the call they are receiving has been verified to be from an actual person, not a robocall service. 

Caller Verified T-Mobile

An example of what a verified caller screen looks like on a T-Mobile phone. 

T-Mobile

T-Mobile has already deployed the protocol for calls made within its network and AT&T has previously teamed up with Comcast for calls made between the two respective providers' digital home phone services (as well as offering the service within its own mobile network). Wednesday's announcement marks another big step, bringing two wireless companies together. 

There still are, however, some limitations. 

The service won't block the calls, it will just give people better knowledge about the calls they are receiving. On T-Mobile, you will need to have one of 12 Samsung and LG devices at T-Mobile and Metro with T-Mobile to see the verification today, with the company saying that there will be "more to come in the near future." AT&T hasn't announced which devices will have the SHAKEN/STIR displays.

AT&T's Call Protect, which works to block calls in the background, will also begin learning from STIR/SHAKEN to improve its service today. 

The announcement follows comments made in February by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who said that companies should get the systems installed by the end of 2019 or the FCC will consider "regulatory intervention."

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