“Robocalling can be complicated to detect, prevent and mitigate, so collaborating and innovating is very important. If the international carrier community works together we can get ahead of the issue,” says Philippe Millet, Chairman, i3forum in an exclusive interview with EnterpriseTalk.
ET Bureau: What has been the impact of quarantines and lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 crisis on international voice traffic
Philippe Millet: Quarantines and lockdowns caused by COVID-19 hugely limited face-to-face contact, so international voice traffic really surged initially as more and more people used their phones for personal calls and business calls alike. i3forum Insights, our market database for international voice services, saw a 20% increase in international voice traffic in March 2020 compared to the same month in 2019. But when travel restrictions began to be implemented, roaming traffic was hit hard, and on the whole international traffic volume has suffered a negative impact from the COVID-19 crisis.
In addition, it is worth noting that the average call lengths had increased – for instance, a +60% increase in April 2020 compared to the same month in 2019, only a month after many countries entered their first lockdowns. These numbers are huge and some of the largest fluctuations of international voice traffic we’ve ever seen, which was really interesting to see.
ET Bureau: Robocalling is an annoyance for both consumers and carriers, and it is something that the industry needs to address. Robocalls have been reduced as a result of pandemic lockdowns. What can the telecom sector do to prevent them from returning? What are some successful CLI (Calling Line Identification) spoofing detection, prevention, and mitigation strategies?
Philippe Millet: The telecom industry can no longer be passive when it comes to robocalling.
Calling Line Identification (CLI) involves providing the recipient of a telephone call information about who is making the call. When handling and providing this information, carriers must make sure that it’s accurate and remains accurate as calls are handed over from carrier to carrier until they reach their destination. CLI spoofing detection, prevention and mitigation can protect consumers and businesses and ensure they only receive safe and relevant calls.
So far, international carriers – who are the “middle men” of international traffic, connecting the service providers at both ends of the call – have individually taken approaches to combat CLI fraud, but face challenges when they want to verify each and every CLI carried on their networks. As calls are passed on from one carrier to the other, it becomes difficult to verify the accuracy of the CLI.
Only through a collaborative approach that combines adoption of best practices and the technology to verify things, can we hope to become effective at combating CLI spoofing. Each segment of the call path (domestic and international) must be covered, and international carriers are ready to do their share and work with domestic operators and authorities to build a true end-to-end CLI safe mechanism.
Adoption of Industry recommendations about CLI handling, combined with the implementation of call signing technology (e.g. based on STIR) is a promising path. Now we need to work together to implement this globally and cooperate with the various domestic authorities to make sure we have optimum interworking between their domestic approaches and the international transit segment. As more and more domestic / regional regulatory authorities are looking for ways to combat CLI spoofing, the international carrier community is ready to play its part.
ET Bureau: What will be the impact of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Robocall order issued in 2020 on international telecoms carriers?
Philippe Millet: The FCC Robocall order affects all US domestic voice traffic as well as foreign generated voice traffic with calling identity belonging to portions of the North American Numbering Plan (NANP). The goal of this is to combat robocalling by being able to identify the real source of illegal traffic thanks to call authentication technologies. For international carriers, this requires imminent action.
To be listed in the Robocall Mitigation Database (RMD), international telecoms carriers must prove they have implemented either the STIR/SHAKEN framework, a call verification system, or that they are complying with the Robocall mitigation program requirements.
Operators might have a hard time differentiating the CLI when traffic subjected to FCC regulation is alongside international traffic that is not subjected to regulations, so those that want to deliver voice traffic to the US through a terminating US operator should register into the RMD as immediate providers to avoid this.
International telecoms carriers need to be alert and stay on top of changing regulations to ensure they can keep doing business seamlessly.
ET Bureau: For large businesses, the expenses might be substantially greater than the productivity lost as a result of a single Robocall. How can responsible businesses assist their employees in avoiding Robocall? What about a business-oriented solution?
Philippe Millet: There are many routes businesses can take to protect their employees from robocalling. Actions such as investing in spam-blocking software, apps or joining ‘do not call’ registries are just small, simple steps that can have a big impact on the number of Robocall they receive.
However, to continue terminating calls in the US seamlessly, carriers will need to abide to the FCC regulations on top of these strategies.
ET Bureau: The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 impacted the international carrier community, as it did all other industries. How important is it for the international carrier community to collaborate and innovate together in order to ensure long-term growth and sustainability?
Philippe Millet: Robocalling can be complicated to detect, prevent and mitigate, so collaborating and innovating is very important. If the international carrier community works together we can get ahead of the issue. When it comes to the US market, carriers must take the precautions/instructions set out for them by the FCC to protect consumers and businesses alike from threats in the international voice market.
Collaborating to identify the sources of illegal traffic by looking at trace back activity is a must for international carriers if we’re to combat robocalling. It is no secret that the issue is affecting the majority of carriers, so we must come together if we want to put a stop to the detrimental effects CLI spoofing is having on our businesses.