Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – An informed source within the Saudi Arabian telecommunications sector revealed that the negotiations between Saudi Telecom Co [STC] and the Canadian Research in Motion [RIM] company that manufactures BlackBerry phones have agreed upon the installation of servers in Saudi Arabia in order to ensure that instant messages sent via BlackBerry Messenger can be monitored.
Riyadh had threatened to ban the BlackBerry Messenger service from being used in Saudi Arabia unless BlackBerry servers were located in Riyadh and messages sent via this service could be monitored for national security purposes. Saudi Arabia is BlackBerry’s largest market in the Middle East, with approximately 700,000 BlackBerry users.
The telecommunication source informed Asharq Al-Awsat that work will begin to install BlackBerry servers in Saudi Arabia, and that these will be tested to ensure that STC is able to monitor the information that is sent via BlackBerry Messenger. The source said that if this experiment proves successful, the BlackBerry Messenger service will be allowed to continue in Saudi Arabia.
There are three telecommunication companies that provide BlackBerry service in Saudi Arabia; they are STC, Ettihad Etisalat, and Zain Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Communication and Information Technology Commission [CITC] had given BlackBerry 5 days to end the problem with regards to BlackBerry communication in Saudi Arabia taking place via servers located outside of the country. This resulted in telecommunication companies like STC negotiating with RIM to find a solution to ensure the continuance of the hugely popular BlackBerry Messenger service inside Saudi Arabia.
The source also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the continuance of the BlackBerry Messenger service was due to the large number of BlackBerry users in Saudi Arabia, which increased following a huge fall in the price of BlackBerry handsets during the negotiations when the fate of BlackBerry Messenger still hung in the balance.