Rebekah Johnson: Welcome to Tuesday Talks, a live discussion series where we shed light and bring truth to emerging topics in the communications industry. I'm Rebekah Johnson, Founder and CEO of Numeracle, and I'll be co-hosting today’s session with Anis Jaffer, Chief Product Officer at Numeracle. Anis, it’s great to get the two of us back together again, it's been quite a while.
Anis Jaffer: Yeah, it does seem like quite a while and I’m really looking forward to today’s discussion. I think as we come to the end of our series for 2021, I think this is the first time that we don't have an agenda.
Rebekah Johnson: Totally, I have no idea how this will go. I hope people don’t drop, it might take more than 30 minutes. But I really am excited about this particular session because, Anis, it's our 20th! I cannot believe we’ve had 20 Tuesday Talks this year!
I want to talk about why we started Tuesday Talks. It’s funny because you and I would have these meetings with our one-on-ones and we were supposed to be talking about business stuff like budgets and roadmaps and those types of things but we'd get lost on these tangents talking about the latest IP-NNI Task Force meeting that we were on, or something happening here in D.C., and new technologies that we were playing around with. So we thought these were some really good conversations and should tape this to a podcast and that's how it started from there!
Anis Jaffer: I think that's why I wanted to keep this as one of those casual sessions that we normally would have because we weave into different areas and invariably we can catch up on a lot of things. The podcast and itself has far exceeded what we thought our expectations were. We thought it would be a good little information session that we could put out for people but the feedback has been awesome. I'm really glad that we did it in 2021 so we can continue doing this after the winter break.
Rebekah Johnson: I think what was really good is how we used to say that we’re not the subject matter experts on everything. I mean, we know a lot about a lot of different things but what I really love about this podcast is that we can bring the experts to the table and everybody can hear straight from them. These are the people that we were getting all of our information from and they truly were the source of truth. Looking back on who our guests were, it's amazing. It’s an amazing group of extremely talented individuals in their specific areas in this whole calling communication ecosystem.
For our 20th session, we thought it'd be a good idea to reflect on 2021. Our talks covered regulations, standards, advancements, and many challenges in technologies. A big problem was the misinformation that plagued all of those areas. I'm glad we were able to bring those experts to the table and clear up the confusion, which I think is a big part of what we wanted to achieve.
Anis Jaffer: Right, and the guests have been super nice and brought a lot of information that got shared. We still have a list of people that we are going to bring back so that's something to look forward to in 2022. For this session, how would you like to talk about it? I know we touched on lots of different topics like technologies, standards, and regulations, so how do you want to go about this?
Rebekah Johnson: To that point, I’d like to be a little organized on how we take this stroll down memory lane and we'll take three stops. Let’s start with regulations, move on to standards, and then technology. Then I'll share some of my favorite highlights under each category and I definitely want to hear what yours are.
I'll kick it off first with the regulatory topics. By far, the top regulatory matter that created the most confusion and misinformation is the infamous June 30th deadline. I think you might agree on that one.
Anis Jaffer: Absolutely, it was coming into this year that everybody was focused on what's going to happen on June 30th. Are the calls going to drop off? Are we going to get any calls? I think we had a session very early on talking about what to expect for the STIR/SHAKEN deadline. It was, as we thought it would happen, where calls were not going to drop off, there would be lots of service providers implementing the solution, and there was a ramp-up before everybody adopted it. And that’s what eventually happened. That was the first major deadline that happened, was the June 30th implementation of the standards.
Rebekah Johnson: We had some amazing experts come and speak to the June 3oth deadline. We had technology people, standards people, even lawyers come visit Tuesday Talks to shed some truth and light on what June 30th meant. What was disheartening was the chaos and confusion within the companies who are trying to figure out what June 30th was all about. There were probably resources spent doing things they didn't need to do and there was money spent on efforts and activities they didn't need to do. There was true value in listening to those experts that we brought onto the show.
The lesson that we need to carry forward into 2022 is to get an understanding of regulatory deadlines. Don’t read more into what is there, listen to the experts. I can’t tell you how many times I’d get on phone calls and people would already be arguing over what a particular deadline was or wasn’t. They just have to read the text! If you read the text and you don’t understand, you have got to get council. We've had several lawyers on our podcast who are phenomenal at what they do. They are the experts and are defining and leading the way, even on these matters, and they work with the FCC as well.
I would really like for 2022, as we have more regulation on the line with the FNPRM from the FCC on Gateway providers with a whole other set of deadlines and requirements. Let's learn from this lesson and pause to get an understanding of what the regulations are. Tuesday Talks is going to be here to bring the experts to cover these topics, which is why we had Mitch Roth here on our last Tuesday Talks, talking about that. That would be my recommendation for coming into 2022, with the lessons learned from that. Anis, I don’t know if you have any thoughts on the lessons learned from the regulatory side?
Anis Jaffer: I was also thinking about the Robocall Mitigation Database and the deadline on September 30th. We had Kevin Rupy for that topic and that was an amazing session as well. As you said, one of the things that I would recommend or suggest as people listen to what's coming up, is to read up on what's coming up and then listen to the experts, folks like Kevin and Jim McEachern. That’s what they need to do. Look up what’s coming up and then get your info from the experts on what you need to do.
Rebekah Johnson: Speaking of experts, we had some wonderful people from the standards side, and it was kind of scary for us to bring Christ Wendt on to the podcast, not because Chris is scary, he’s not, it was the topic that was. Our audience usually doesn't understand the standards because they can be too technical so we had a lot of concerns over whether or not to take the conversation to that level. We really believed that if our listeners had an understanding of the standards and also heard different voices from the Standard Group, because there's a lot of different opinions in there, that that would help advance the ecosystem as a whole.
Ultimately, here at Tuesday Talks and at Numeracle, we're focused on the enterprise and we’re focused on the delivery of legal calls. This year, for a lot of the work, Anis, I commend you and your team. You were a part of POC’s (proof of concept) on the standard side, we've given a lot of input and feedback in corralling multiple parties to come together to prove standards so we could advance the approvals of those standards, which were huge highlights for us in 2021. I'll let you talk about the successes and some of the strategies that you put into the standards side.
Anis Jaffer: In 2021, the highlight was getting the end entity or the delegate certs standards approved. Chris and David played a pivotal role in getting that documented and getting through the process at ATIS. That was good and as you said, sometimes the standards get very technical for the audience but it's good for people to hear from the experts who are actually writing the standards to get a peek into how they're thinking about some of these problems and how they're coming up with these solutions. Not all of these would be relevant for any given enterprise, but understanding how they are coming up with the technical side of building the solution is really useful so that you can plan on how you want to implement them.
On the Proof of Concepts (POCs) that we did, we did a couple but the major one was leveraging the delegate certificate model. The first one was very early in 2021 where we did the RCD (rich call data) PASSporT which was passed along with the delegated cert with our partners and we terminated on a Comcast number. That was the first proof of concept that we did.
Sometime in the middle of the year, we had a very similar proof of concept, again leveraging the delegated cert model, but this time we also had T-Mobile in the mix with the CTA Centralized Registry Depository as a function and part of that proof of concept. That proved that the industry can come together. Multiple entities will sometimes compete with each other but for the proof of concept, we all participated and built the solution. That proved that the standards, once they are approved and implemented, the teams would figure out how to do it and make it easy and available.
I'm looking forward to 2022 as some of these things are getting adopted. One thing is to come up with the standards and the next is to see how to move this further and get it widely available and adopted.
Rebekah Johnson: Definitely, in 2021 the delegate certificate topic was several years in the making but got momentum at the end of 2020 and then through 2021 to prove it. I do believe in the standards and have full support for the standards but there does come a time when you need to prove out whether that standard is a viable option, and it is just that, it is an option. The GA (Governance Authority) did vote on delegate certificates to be adopted as an option that can be leveraged but it’s not mandated or required.
As we moved into the end of this year, looking at the gateway provider NPRM, I think delegate certificates really comes to light as a solution at that level. I didn’t think about it until I read that notice but I think delegate certificates could really solve our international identification issue. It’ll be exciting to see where that progresses next year. I think it’ll still take a lot of technological advancement but the interesting thing about delegate certificates is that it’s not one entity that is a solution provider for it. It requires multiple companies and multiple solutions to work together because that’s what standards are. So we’ll see, but I do think that in 2022 delegate certificates will have their opportunity for adoption but I think it will be an international type of solution.
Anis Jaffer: That’s a good point and I’d like to comment on that. I think on the international side it definitely has its place and is a relevant model to be implemented. As you know, gateway providers are now being required to attest the originating entity, which is going to be difficult, so delegate certificates is one way to make that easier. It’s definitely something to watch out for in 2022 how the international cross-border standards evolve and how this can be implemented for call originators from outside the U.S.
Rebekah Johnson: Let’s move on to the third component. If there’s one thing that we’ve learned this year it’s that technology continues to progress with or without regulations or standards. It was an insane year for technologies that were all contributing towards that identification and trustworthiness of a voice call.
Let's dive into some of the really exciting and fun technologies that are taking off the ground. These technologies have been around for a while but the industry hasn't adopted their use. Let’s just say that the market hasn't responded to the need for these solutions. But COVID and the pandemic and everybody going home elevated the need for identification on voice calls because now we're leveraging the voice channel, the text channel, and the email channel for more than we did prior. Let’s dive into some of those fun topics. We’ve had quite a few podcast episodes on branded calling so let’s go into that a little bit.
Anis Jaffer: This year, we definitely saw a lot of branded calling solutions arrive on the market. They were all different flavors of out-of-band solutions. Out-of-band is not something that someone came up with to work outside of the standards, it’s actually part of the IETF STIR out-of-band, which is a standard that has already been published and reviewed.
Google was one the first to come up with the out-of-band Verified Caller solution. Through their model, you can push the data after an entity is verified and numbers are associated and have the call logo and call reason, pushing that out-of-band or using the data network and not going through the communication network on the regular PSTN. You can push the data to a Google Verified phone, and with that, we saw a lot of adoption, especially by some of our clients this year. Starting in the summer of this year we started seeing a lot of our clients leveraging that solution. To me, that was one of the first to adopt this out-of-band solution in a widespread manner.
Then, the analytics providers working with major carriers like First Orion, Hiya, and TNS, all have their own flavors of the branded calling solution. Today, some of them are out-of-band, but eventually, I'm assuming that they will bring it into the STIR/SHAKEN framework, but as of now, the solutions they are providing are out-of-band and can push data directly from a verified entity through Numeracle and connect it to Hiya or First Orion, for example. When the call lands, you can see the logo and the call reason will be displayed. That is something that we saw a lot of our clients leveraging.
Rebekah Johnson: And talk about the lack of standards here.
Anis Jaffer: Yeah there are no standards for that. It’s directly going on to an app so there is no standard on how an app can render a logo. Even though Apple and Google have some restrictions or specifications on how to push the icons or the brand logo, there’s really no standard on how this can be implemented. And I don’t think you'll ever have a scenario where out-of-band is going to be standardized. I think we are going to see multiple flavors of the solution and depending on where the call is getting terminated, it could have a combination of STIR/SHAKEN plus an out-of-band solution. I predict that it will evolve next year and then over a period of time, one standard or one model or implementation could superceed others.
Rebekah Johnson: We had some really interesting feedback on this. You had a session on this with Frank Pettinato from Avantive Solutions, who really are pioneers in leveraging the branded calling across the different ecosystems and then applying a level of intelligence on the use of those tools. It's so sophisticated and I really enjoy watching the Avantive Team innovate around these technologies. They went in and did a lot of testing on different strategies, different uses for turning on and off branding at certain times, the relationship with the consumer, and also turning branded calling on and off depending upon the terminating side whether it’s AT&T or T-Mobile or Google. What was really I opening from that guest speaker was with regards to the contact rates. Frank said he didn’t really see a difference.
Anis Jaffer: We got very interesting feedback from Frank and from clients who are using branded calling. While branded calling is being positioned as something that will lift contact rates and improve your answer rates, it's not going to be the one solution that will end everything. What we have seen, in some scenarios, branded calling actually helps in the sense that if I, for example, am a subscriber and am expecting a call from a particular brand like my internet service provider reaching out about renewing my services when I’m at the end of my contract, and I get a call with an offer, yes, I would answer the call.
We also saw that callbacks increase in certain scenarios. When you made a call, even if you didn't get to the customer, there were very high callbacks. People would trust that the phone number was a particular brand that they were expecting and they called back. But we also saw a drop in calls for certain other scenarios, for example, if you are a debt collector or a financial product company trying to sell, in those scenarios we noticed that a branded call did not make that big of a difference.
One other interesting fact that we noticed was that the number of attempts were reduced for an outbound call center because either calls were answered the first time or they got a call back. In that scenario, the number of call attempts was reduced which brought down the overall spending. There are other ways to look at it for how a contact center could benefit from branded calling but it’s not an answer for everything. If someone is trying to model this solution and assumes that by adding branded calling they’re going to see an x or y return, you cannot use the same statistics because that changes.
Rebekah Johnson: I think sophistication with the use of these technologies is going to occur in 2022 and, no doubt, we're going to have more companies to interview on how they're leveraging this technology and hopefully that'll be a benefit to our listeners when they're looking at using branded calling. There is just another level of intelligence that has to be applied to the use of it.
Really quick, Anis, let’s move on to some predictions for 2022 in the technology space.
Anis Jaffer: With branded calling, I think we’ll start seeing more branded calling, that's one thing, but I also think that with more providers now adopting and implementing STIR/SHAKEN, I have a feeling that the bad actors will also figure out ways to get sound it. I think one of the things we are going to see is an increase in STIR/SHAKEN certified calls but it could also be some of those negative scenarios. We already know about a few where calls were either getting issued with false certificates and it’s those kinds of things that I think will hear about.
I believe that the industry will work together to resolve some of those scenarios but I do think that it's something that we have to watch out for in 2022.
Rebekah Johnson: I definitely think the consumer choice is going to play, in part, with regulations as well. That does drive the consumer side into the technologies that we use so more to come for sure on that. But look, Anis, it wasn't all about the voice channel this year. Messaging had its time in the spotlight, so taking the same approach, let’s look at the regulatory side first.
We announced this not too long ago, but Rosenworcel has proposed rules to combat robotexts. I find this statement that she used for some rulemaking, which is why I’m bringing this topic up, that in 2020 alone the commission received approximately 14,000 consumer complaints about unwanted text messages. I would expect the number to be a lot higher.
Anis Jaffer: Oh yes, I’m sure. I got quite a bit in the last few months and I’ve been noticing a significant increase in spam texts. I think this is another area to watch. Messaging, for sure, is going to be an area where spam and robotexts are going to increase next year. Even for Tuesday Talks, I think we should start talking about messaging early next year.
Rebekah Johnson: Yes, we have some people lined up to be a guest in 2022 because we’re definitely going to put a little bit more spotlight on the messaging channel. What’s interesting about the text side is, while we do have some regulations and laws already today about text messaging that has to do with consent, the same way we have with voice, sometimes industries can be self-regulated.
I would say our government does prefer self-regulatory organizations and when we look at the standards side we already have a shortcode registry, which is run through the CTIA, and what was introduced over the past year was 10DLC via the campaign registry. There’s shortcode or 10 DLC, and we even have toll free number messaging, and these are three different areas where you can associate your identity to your numbers that you use to deliver messages. It's interesting that we already have some processes in place, the industry seems to work together, but are they perfect? No. Nothing from the government is perfect either.
This one is going to be interesting to watch in 2022 with what these proposed rules are that come out because there already is a lot of industry regulation that's occurring. It's going to be interesting to see. What I don't want to happen, and we will definitely be tracking this on Tuesday Talks, is to see anything that deters the use and the value of the channel. Just like on the voice side, I had concerns with the analytics when we started applying it to fraud and spam, there went the value of the channel. We don't want to see that on messaging so we'll definitely be highlighting that.
Again, regardless of regulatory and standards, technology just advances with or without it. Anis, we had some highlights over the past year that we touched on in our podcast.
Anis Jaffer: On the technology side there were a couple of things that we saw even outside of the 10DLC campaign registry. We saw that Google introduced Verified SMS which is very similar to Verified Caller in that you can authenticate and encrypt messages which get decoded at the terminating side. We are also seeing a definite push on rich communication services (RCS). Again, Android is at the forefront trying to lead this. I see that that's an area where enterprise communications providers, as well as enterprises, should pay a lot of attention to (RCS on the Android ecosystem). I expect Apple with their Apple Business Chat would probably move towards that soon. These are interesting things to watch out for next year on the messaging side. I’m really looking forward to how that will shape up.
Rebekah Johnson: One last area that we touched on ever so slightly in one of our podcasts is Verified Emails. It’s coming down the pipeline but I think they still have a lot of work to do with the Know Your Customer, which we didn't mention at all today but Know Your Customer has been sprinkled throughout this entire year. We're going to be following BIMI standards for Verified Emails and look at what kind of adoption can happen.
Anis, I thought it would be really fun to cover some statistics over the past 20 episodes of Season One of Tuesday Talks. Over the 9 hours, 8 minutes, and 50 seconds of it, we've had 10 expert guests join us on our mission to shed light on emerging topics, debunk those myths, and recommend best practices. Over 150 registrants joined us on the live show but on SoundCloud and our YouTube we have over 600 episode playbacks combined and counting. Who wants to listen to us talk?! That's crazy! Not only can you find the podcast on our site, but Tuesday Talk has also been featured in InsideARM and referenced in interviews with Telecom Reseller and more. So that was really exciting. Anis, I’m very proud of the efforts we’ve put in and the incredible guests who were ever so gracious to join us on our Tuesday Talks.
Anis Jaffer: Thanks to all the audience, I know we have regulars that show up, you know who you are. Thank you, everyone, for joining. I'm looking forward to taking this to the next level next year. Hopefully, we'll have more informative sessions and we will definitely be branching into the messaging space and will have more information on that. It’s going to be exciting and I’m so happy that we did this this year.
Rebekah Johnson: While our podcast goes on a little winter break, you can find Season One on our site, including some collections that we’ve regrouped by theme for easier listening on-the-go. We’d like to thank you all, as always, for joining us today on our last episode of Tuesday Talks for the year! We thank you all for your support and participation along the way! We hope to see you all again in 2022 when the podcast comes back from winter break. Take care!