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4 min read

What’s in a Name? Is it Caller ID, CNAM, or RCD?

Understanding Caller Identity History for the Future of Branded Calling
Written by
Mary Gonzalez, Brand & Content Manager
Molly Weis, VP of Marketing
Published on
March 15, 2022

As with every up-and-coming technology, it can be complicated and at times confusing to fully comprehend the scope, reach, elements, and impact of what it does… and can do. The latest telecom tech on the market introduced last year is branded calling. 

But before this latest tech was introduced, many were already familiar with Caller ID, which many have come to know as the name you see on your phone when someone calls you. But what you’re really seeing is the CNAM. 

Here’s the difference: 

Caller ID

Predating branded calling, caller identification (ID) is a feature, subject to device, that transmits or displays a caller’s telephone number to a called parties’ device. Caller ID technically only applies to the display of the phone number of the call originator, but over time this term has become synonymous with the caller’s name too. 

Caller ID is also known as CID, calling line identification (CLI, CLID), calling number delivery (CND), calling number identification (CNID), calling line identification presentation (CLIP), and call display.


CNAM stands for “Caller Name,” also known as “Caller Name Presentation (CNAP).” It is a feature used in US-based telephone networks to display the name (or information) of the originating call party on the Caller ID display of the called parties’ device. This name could be a company name or the name of an individual, but can also be blocked or restricted, displaying as “Caller ID Unknown” or “Unknown Caller.” When available, your Caller Name could display as text along with or instead of your phone number. 

The name displayed is vulnerable to discrepancies as wireless carriers use a combination of crowd-sourced data from 3rd party analytics companies and centralized repositories, known as CNAM Databases, to record the CNAM text for any given phone number. There are about 8 CNAM Database providers, some carrier run, others independent, that maintain these records. Service providers may subscribe to one or more than one of them. 

One of the issues is that not all of these databases are equally well maintained and kept up to date, and some are far more widely used than others. This decentralized infrastructure can lead to issues around accuracy and accessibility of data and lack of input and control directly from the brand to multiple database providers.

How do Caller ID and CNAM work together?

In a nutshell, Caller ID is the actual phone number calling in, whereas CNAM is the accompanying text that provides the identifying name for that number like the name of a person or a company. They are separate services that are handled at different points during the call path.

When a phone call is placed, the Caller ID (phone number) is routed to the called party’s service provider for delivery and display. The CNAM is not sent out with it by the originating provider. Before delivering the call to its destination, the terminating service provider will reference the inbound number and Caller ID against a CNAM database it subscribes to. Then, both the Caller ID and CNAM are usually delivered to the call recipient. 

One Step Further: Evolving Caller ID and CNAM for Branded Calling Solutions

Caller ID and CNAM technologies have been around for quite some time, and without standardized regulatory or Know Your Customer (KYC) measures in place, these “identity enhancing” interfaces can easily be manipulated via call spoofing to make illegal robocalls seem more legitimate. 

“If your customer has caller ID services enabled, they may see your name and number. But the name on the Caller ID is not something a business can completely control, which means they could receive some weird variation of your business name. That’s because there is no universal CNAM standard; there are multiple CNAM databases across the country and carriers may subscribe to one or multiple databases. Without a sole source of truth, your company’s name could be listed inaccurately or with misspellings.”
— First Orion, Building Brand Reputation: CNAM vs. INFORM

With more and more subscribers distrusting the voice channel, the need for a new identity-based technology has led to the introduction of branded calling solutions. These solutions have built off the principles behind Caller ID and CNAM technologies and aim to add another layer of trust to the calling ecosystem by validating a set of rich call data (RCD) elements, such as a calling party name and branded logo, to display on the called party's device so they know exactly who is calling and why.  

Full disclosure, branded calling is currently only offered within the wireless calling ecosystem whereas CNAM can be utilized by both wireless and wireline carriers, however, the static nature of the databases referenced lead to challenges in accuracy of display, which is determined by the carriers. But with branded calling, enterprises are able to take active control of their brand’s identity displays.

Via branded calling, a caller’s company name, their location, a branded logo, and other information like a custom calling reason can convey to your clients, subscribers, and customers that they no longer need to doubt the “unknown caller” behind the call. When RCD is added as part of the STIR/SHAKEN framework, the information cannot be displayed unless it gets authenticated properly by the network [see footnote 1], addressing the threat of malicious call spoofing while vastly increasing the trustworthiness of the trust source of the incoming call when compared to traditional Caller ID or CNAM display. 

Now available across all major wireless providers in the U.S., branded calling is the next step to help identify and trust the source of the call as soon as it's received. To learn more about Branded Calling, visit our Branded Communications Resource Page. 

Attend Numeracle’s webinar session “Consumer & Enterprise Trust in Branded Calling: Are We There Yet?” hosted by SIPNOC 2022’s live webinar series, on March 25th. Register to save your spot. 

Footnote 1: T-Mobile and Partners Complete First-Ever Wireless Call with Rich Call Data, available at:

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