Wednesday, August 4, 2010

UAE Bans BlackBerry Services

DUBAI: Blackberry maker Research In Motion (RIM) was hit with its first major ban on Sunday after the United Arab Emirates, citing security risks, said BlackBerry services would be barred in October.

The move, which will affect half a million users as well as visitors to the Gulf state, follows a warning from Bahrain in April against using Blackberry Messenger software to distribute local news and security concerns raised by India last week.

The UAE, home to Gulf financial hub Dubai, said it would halt Blackberry services on October 11 until an “acceptable solution” is developed and applied.

“It’s a final decision but we are continuing discussions with them,” Mohammed Al Ghanem, director general of the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said.

“Censorship has got nothing to do with this. What we are talking about is suspension due to the lack of compliance with UAE telecommunications regulations.”

The UAE objects to BlackBerry data being exported offshore and managed by a “foreign, commercial operation.”

The regulator said only Blackberry data services operate in that method. The decision will not affect users of rival Nokia and Apple’s iPhone smartphones.

“Today’s decision is based on the fact that, in their current form, certain BlackBerry services allow users to act without any legal accountability, causing judicial, social and national security concerns for the UAE,” the TRA said.

TRA’s Ghanem said the suspension would also apply to BlackBerry users with foreign telephone numbers, closing one potential loophole. RIM officials in Canada were not immediately available for comment.
RIM shares rose last week on speculation that it might unveil a new touchscreen BlackBerry 9800 this week to better compete with the iPhone and other models.

The suspension of BlackBerry Messenger, email and web browsing services comes after attempts dating back to 2007 to bring the service into line with regulations, the UAE’s TRA said.

One of the two local service providers, state-controlled Emirates Telecommunications (Etisalat), introduced a software upgrade last year which RIM said was an unauthorized “telecommunications surveillance application.”


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