T-Mobile CEO on the un-carrier's scam and robocall-fighting technology

Mobile
Thursday's t mobile and carrying out is all about fighting scan and robo calls. We've got some time with CEO Mike Siebert to talk about that. Let's get an update on 5g deployment as well as what's going on with the company since the pandemic started. So carrier events Are generally when you attack the big annoyances in our wireless service. So what are you addressing with today's news? We call them pain points. And we're taking on today one of the biggest pain points ever in this industry, which is robo calls and scams and unwanted calls. And I'll tell you what, this is huge. This is the number one complaint To the FCC, can you believe about 11% of calls on our traffic were blocked by our technology just last week. I mean, this is massive 58 billion robo calls were placed last year in 2019. That's 1800 a second, and people are being robbed. These are crimes. They're being talked out of their money. $10 billion, estimated lost last year from this. And you know, it's getting worse because we've got fears. People are losing jobs, they're looking for jobs. They're interested in their stimulus checks and other things. And criminals are preying on all that and so it's gone up and up and up through the pandemic, and it just has to stop. So we're launching this major initiative today. That we hope like the rest of our uncarrier moves in the past, the rest of the industry follows suit and we can really make progress against, essentially these criminal elements that want to steal from 10s of millions of people. So let's let's dive into it. scam shield, what is it what what are some of these other programs that you are offering today? Well, it's a comprehensive left to right solution cuz one of the things we've learned is that it's this issue is too big and too complicated to solve with any one thing. At the centerpiece of it is scamID and ScamBlock are breakthrough technologies that are network driven, AI driven to identify calls and block them. You ever get those calls those scams and then you go into your phone And you blocked them on your phone. The truth is that doesn't do much good. Now with the scam shield app, you'll be able to go into our app and with one touch block that call or essentially report it to us because it's not just the 10 digits they called with Because as you know, they randomize those they call with new numbers every time that tells us to investigate the source of that call. So what is different about this and what and what is new exactly in terms of some of these because I know some of these services like the caller ID feature? Had been offered in the past. So what is new what is different from the rest of the industry? What's different is that ours is network based, and it's for everyone on the network, literally speaking, and so it doesn't rely on a certain rate plan or or app or having something installed or paying for a feature which is exactly what Verizon offers, which is $7. 99 cents a month. This is an issue that the carriers are helping to bring to customers. Their own networks are bringing you these scams and yet they're profiting from technology that might be proposed to stop their own technology from bringing you these scams. That's crazy. And so part of what we do with uncarrier moves is we call out industry practices, sometimes practices that we've participated in in the past and said, Look, this is a pain point, and it's got to stop. So these technologies at T Mobile are not just better, because they're network based and don't rely on an app, but they're free. And we're not gonna charge for them including, as you mentioned, caller ID which is now free at T Mobile. And as you mentioned being made better that industry standard technology you talked about stir shaken is basically a pool database of being able to see not only the name of a caller, which is important if you have caller ID, which is free now, but that it's a verified mobile user. And not call center or robot calling you and that's really important information for you in order to know you can safely answer the phone. It might be the delivery person or your doctor's office or your kids school. It's important that people don't just shut down and stop answering calls that aren't from their contacts. So how effective are these tools? Do you see this Right eliminating robot calls. Well, so far we're not outright eliminating them and we're never probably going to be able to declare success on this. You know, it's like any other cybersecurity. All you can do is up the ante and put extra pressure on in this case It's gonna take collaboration from consumers themselves today because mobile phones have become so important everybody needs your mobile phone. The delivery people need it. The restaurant needs it the you know you use it as your identity. What that means is not only do they have your number but they have your number matched to your name and in many cases, your address and that just sets you up for cyber crime. So what we've done today with proxy is we've said, Listen, everybody should establish a second line, basically a spam line that you can give out to all these services. So your personal number Remains personal. And so that's another element of today's announcement free proxy line for everyone.>> For customers who are interested in this, how do they sign up? How do they get started on this program?>> Well, we've made it easy. So starting next week on July 24, you just download the scam shield app. And the scam shield app navigates all these protections for you which is so important because otherwise it's it's too confusing for people. We want them to have the app and to use it that way when they do get robo calls that slip through our system, they tell us about it. And when they tell us about it, our system investigates it and the AI gets better and better Your recent studies have shown as to the volume of. These robo calls have dropped in recent months. Unsurprisingly probably Coronavirus related. I'm just curious. I mean part of it also, I think are some of the steps that companies like you and Verizon att have taken to you know, offer some of these call filters, right people have been a bit more proactive are aware of this problem. But as directionally gone down, do you think things will pick up again? What do you think the volume of these robo calls and these spam calls will look like in the coming months, especially as you guys start to roll out these tools Two things are going up the. Attempts are going up so we're getting better and better at blocking that's important. And by the way, it's not declining. The actual losses people are experiencing through robo calls and scams has gone up through the pandemic because the surface area is higher. So people are preying on your fears about job losses around getting your hands on stimulus checks whether it's the tax season that was delayed. So we've seen an increase from May to June. For example, during the pandemic of 70% 7 0. 70% in terms of how much people are losing to scammers that reach them on their mobile phones. I wanna switch gears a bit. Let's talk about 5G, a topic that's near and dear to my heart. I wanna get a sense of what the status is of your 5G rollout so far Well, we're way ahead of schedule. You know and and that's in part thanks to your good government who accidentally gave us an extra year to plan this merger. It's gave us a little extra time and we've taken advantage of it and come out of the gates really running. Right now, we have mid band 5g using two and a half gigahertz spectrum running. In five of the largest cities in the country. New York, LA, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia. I mean, that's fantastic in just 100 days we're up and running. And the speed we're seeing, average speed when you've got both low and mid band in place, of north of 300 megabits per second, ten times faster. Than 4g LTE already in the first moments of this 5g revolution that we're building Well, I'm talking about the consumer adoption side because obviously we're in an extraordinary situation right now folks are out of jobs. 5g is traditionally been a premium service. Here's what on your end, from your perspective what 5g adoption looks like right now, particularly We don't have as many devices. There's some coming in. We're going to see more in the second half for sure. But what, what is adoption look like right now? Yeah well, on the Android side, it's coming along pretty well because the most of the mainstream flagship devices have had it for a few months. And they've had it in ways that are compatable with our technology. So, as we roll it out, you're able to take advantage of it right away. That's why you're seeing 23% of users with a compatable handset all ready experiencing 5G The way we designed it on our network, which is, as I said, as far as I can tell best in the world availability rates. And so a dream of ours would be, wouldn't it be awesome if we exited this year with substantially all the flagship devices being compatible not just with 5G, but with our particular approach to 5G Which is low and mid band centric with millimeter wave where people can benefit from it. Yeah and speaking about the customers you know you and several other carriers pledged support customers during the lockdown with the keep Americans connected pledge that pledge has since expired so I'm curious what you guys are doing to continue to support customers because the Coronavirus Clearly hasn't gone away. So what are you doing to help folks? In this difficult time? It's always been a core competency of T mobile's to provide great service and to be able to serve people who have tighter and tougher budgets. That you know, that's been a part of our legacy. It's been a part of our competence for years and everybody knows that because we've been the value player. A lot of people have found their way to us that do have tougher economic circumstances. And so we know how to work with them. We work with them one on one, we meet their needs. And a big piece of this is to make sure that people don't rack up big bills on our service that they can't afford. And that's why right during the pandemic we brought to market way ahead of schedule T-Mobile Connect, which is the lowest customer phone plan in our history and certainly lower than anything our direct competitors have ever done, starting at $15 a month for smartphones. And so, it's about right sizing people to what they can afford because I know this, unlike the last recession in 2008, Our category has achieved a level of importance in consumers lives. They're not gonna drop it. They feel like they can't drop our category. But by the same token, we can't provide the services that they need if people aren't paying us. And so what we do is work with each person and arrange what will work for them. Maybe that's a payment arrangement. So they can catch up over time or maybe that's putting them on a breakthrough offer, like T Mobile connect that they can afford. But this is what our people do everyday. We know how to work with people, who are trying to make ends meet and that's what part of what they love about T Mobile. Thanks Mike for your time. If you want to read more about what's going on with T Mobile spam fighting tools, check us out on CNET

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