Blackberry services to continue in UAE

04:39AM Fri 8 Oct, 2010

The United Arab Emirates will not suspend BlackBerry services on October 11 after resolving a dispute with its Canadian maker Research in Motion over access to email and other data, reports WAM on Friday.

The UAE had said it would suspend BlackBerry Messenger, email and web browser services to about 500,000 subscribers from October 11 unless Canadian BlackBerry maker RIM works out a way to locate encrypted servers in the country, so that the government can seek access to messages.

"The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has confirmed that Blackberry services are now compliant with the UAE's telecommunications regulatory framework," a statement on WAM said.

"Therefore all Blackberry services in the UAE will continue to operate as normal and no suspension of service will occur on October 11, 2010," it said.

Before the dispute, information sent to and from BlackBerries had been encrypted and handled by servers outside the UAE.

The UAE had voiced concerns over its inability to access the information through legal means, citing security and sovereignty issues, and had emphasised it was not able to reach a deal since new telecoms regulations took effect three years ago.

"The TRA also acknowledged 'the positive engagement and collaboration of Research In Motion (RIM) in reaching this regulatory compliant outcome'," it said.

BlackBerry sales have fallen by around 40 per cent, said a supervisor in an electronics shop, Kishore Kumar.

"Those still buying the device are basically tourists," he added.

BlackBerry has faced similar snags in Saudi Arabia and India, where the authorities fear heavy encryption makes BlackBerry convenient for terrorists to use without being detected.

The Saudi telecommunications authority announced in early August that it had ordered the country's three providers to block key BlackBerry services or face a 1.3-million-dollar fine as of August 6.

At the time, the regulator had said "the way BlackBerry services are provided currently does not meet the regulatory criteria of the commission and the licensing conditions."

But only days later, it indefinitely postponed the ban after reporting progress in efforts to find a solution that would allow authorities to monitor encrypted messages on the popular smartphone.

Subscribers number around 700,000 in Saudi Arabia, where Internet service is strictly censored.

BlackBerry's encrypted emails and data are stored on servers in Canada, the headquarters of RIM, meaning that third parties such as intelligence agencies cannot monitor communications.

Outside GCC, the firm is making progress in talks with India over New Delhi's demands to be able to intercept encrypted messages carried by the smartphone, according to latest reports.

New Delhi had initially threatened to ban BlackBerry's corporate email service if the firm failed to come up with ways to monitor it by the end of August. Now it has said it will review the situation near the end of October.

India has said RIM will have to set up a server if it wishes to continue in the country and said it will study the feasibility of services provided through such a server located in India.

(WAM), 8 October 2010