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UAE Cancels Planned BlackBerry Services Ban | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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DUBAI, (AFP) — The United Arab Emirates said on Friday that a ban on BlackBerry services that had been due to come into effect next week will not go ahead, bringing relief in a country dependent on its reputation as a business hub.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority confirmed that Blackberry services are now compliant with the UAE’s regulatory framework, in a statement on the official WAM news agency.

“BlackBerry services will carry on as usual and will not be suspended on October 11,” the statement said.

In late August, the UAE said that, from October 11, it would block BlackBerry messenger, web browsing and email services because they “allow individuals to commit violations” that cannot be monitored.

But the TRA statement acknowledged “the positive engagement and collaboration of Research In Motion (RIM) in reaching this regulatorily compliant outcome.”

There were no immediate details on what concessions, if any, RIM might have made in order to avoid the ban. A company executive would not comment.

A TRA official had said earlier this week that the decision to suspend the services was “final.”

However, “we remain open to discussions in order that an acceptable, regulatorily compliant solution might be developed and applied,” the official told AFP.

Since the TRA announced it was planning the ban, the market for BlackBerry handsets has languished in the oil-rich Gulf state, where there are some 500,000 savvy users.

Speaking on Thursday, Informa Telecoms & Media senior analyst Matthew Reed said RIM was facing a dilemma.

“On one hand it wants to expand into emerging markets, at least in Asia, that have potential growth. But at the same time it faces security problems in these markets.

“BlackBerry wants to continue to appear as a very security-enabled mobile but it also wants to be in the emerging markets. These two aims might cause tensions.

“RIM is looking for some kind of solutions. But this could undermine their reputation. Customers might be wondering what compromises have been made.”

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.

Businessman Rami Hennawi said on Friday: “What a relief! Although I did not think they would ban it and I thought they would reach a solution … it is not possible to ban the BlackBerry if you want to be a business hub in the region.”

Wael Khalil, a consultant in the medical equipment field, said: “It is a positive step but they should have announced it earlier. They kept everybody waiting. I deal with many businessmemen who visit here and they were concerned about not having access to their BlackBerry in future business trips.”

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 as of August 6.

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.

Outside the Arab world, 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.