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August 9th, 2020

Lessons Learned from STIR/SHAKEN Testing and Deployment

At the 2020 SIP FORUM STIR/SHAKEN Virtual Summit in June, we asked a panel of industry leaders about their experiences with STIR/SHAKEN implementation. 

These included Melissa Blassingame, strategic business director at Twilio; Eric Huffman, network design engineer at Armstrong; David Preo, product manager at Bandwidth; and Brandon Robinson, vice president of product development at Inteliquent.

With the FCC’s hard deadline of June 2021 for carriers to implement STIR/SHAKEN, many organizations are now scrambling. While progress has been steady overall, the organizations we talked to had their own unique challenges.

Hurry up and wait?
Twilio, a leading cloud communication software company that enables communications – calls, texts, or emails – through APIs, acquired their SPC token in March 2020. They are now an originating service provider capable of signing and authenticating calls in the STIR/SHAKEN ecosystem.  

One of the key issues they’re facing is that they don’t know how many calls are being received by the Terminating Service Provider (TSP) with the actual STIR/SHAKEN header. Melissa also noted that the process to receive an OCN (Operating Company Number) took longer than expected – in fact, many, many months. 

Unanticipated upgrades slow rollout.
A broadband service provider operating in five states, Armstrong offers residential and commercial voice services to over 100k subscribers, among other services. Their STIR/SHAKEN implementation is in progress and they are completing testing. At this point, Eric pointed out, they’ve established a relationship with iconectiv, the Policy Administrator (PA), received service tokens, and can sign calls–and verify test calls. But they’re working through some technical issues when it comes to terminating verified calls to test subscribers, including unanticipated upgrades and certain out-of-band issues.

That pesky attestation gap again.
STIR/SHAKEN has been in production since Q4 2019 at Bandwidth. They now have interoperated with Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Comcast in production, and are working with several other carriers. “While we’ve had some delays due to COVID-19,” David said “everything is picking up again and we’re attesting over a billion calls a week.” Issues he’s encountered include network upgrades and concerns over the attestation gap. 

Defining the value-add upfront.
According to Brandon, “Inteliquent’s rounding third base in terms of readiness.” Inteliquent, which offers network-based voice and messaging services to wireless, cable, carrier, and communications service providers, is doing two “flavors” of STIR/SHAKEN. 

First, they are signing on behalf of non-carriers and providers that can’t get their own certifications. They are also offering STIR/SHAKEN “as a service offering." In that role, the company helps service providers and RLECS that will be their own providers on STIR/SHAKEN – but who can’t afford the upgrade and infrastructure costs and won’t be able to meet the deadline. Key challenges Inteliquent has faced include determining from a business perspective what capabilities they need to go to launch and where they can add the most value.

As your organization embark on the STIR/SHAKEN implementation process, keep these key takeaways in mind:

  • Network upgrades – Carriers must often upgrade their network elements or wait for upgrades from upstream or downstream service providers to support STIR/SHAKEN, which can lead to implementation delays. There are many points along the call path that need to be addressed to implement, so begin testing early to uncover hurdles that can slow deployment.
     
  • Attestation gap – When more complex enterprise configurations are considered, determining the proper attestation level to assign to a call can be challenging. Carriers and enterprises should consider approaches such as certificate delegation or TN database to address these issues.
     
  • Implementation – the standards makers and regulators are still determining how to address issues that arise from limitations in the STIR/SHAKEN ecosystem such as TDM networks. We anticipate answers as rollout continues.

Right now, if you’re just beginning to explore STIR/SHAKEN implementation—or are midstream and experiencing issues—we’d recommend working with a third party like Neustar. As a co-author of STIR/SHAKEN, we can’t say that we’ve seen every technical issue you can have—but we’ve certainly seen more than most. To learn more, check out our CSP Checklist for Implementing STIR/SHAKEN. You can also visit our Trusted Call Center. We’re here to help, so contact us today.

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