Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Saudi Communication and Information Technology Commission [CITC] has asserted to Asharq al-Awsat that the suspension of “Blackberry” service for all its subscribers in Saudi Arabia, which goes into effect today, will be limited to the “Blackberry Messenger” service only while other services like receiving and sending emails and browsing the internet websites will remain available to them.
Sultan al-Malik, the CITC’s director general for international affairs, public relations, and the media, underlined its stand about meeting all the requirements it had demanded before one year from the three companies offering the service in Saudi Arabia and stressed at the same time that these three companies were continuing to negotiate with the Canadian “RIM” Company which manufactures the “Blackberry” equipment so as to find the solutions. As to Asharq Al-Awsat’s questions about the issue the three companies were discussing with the Canadian company and if there were other alternative features which the CITC would recommend to the three companies to offer to their subscribers, Al-Malik refused to answer the questions sent to his cellular phone and wrote that he had nothing to say other than the statement he had sent. He stressed that the CITC is not against the subscribers’ interest as long as the services provided do not conflict with its rules and asserted it is eager to encourage the companies to offer the most up-to-date services that are compatible with the requirements of the licenses granted to them, noting that the “Blackberry” service as it stands now does not meet the organizational requirements according to the rules and conditions of the licenses granted to the service providers. He pointed out that the CITC informed the three communications services operating in Saudi Arabia, “Saudi Communications Company,” “Mobily” United Communications Company, and “Zayn” Company, that they need to work with the company manufacturing “Blackberry” equipment to meet the necessary organizational requirements quickly.
According to specialists in the Saudi communications market, more than 90 percent of “Blackberry” users concentrate on the “BB Messenger” service while only 10 percent is for the other services. The messenger service achieved a high level of usage among the youths in particular. Observers believe the ban — which is limited to “Blackberry’s” “Instant Messaging” service that is in greater demand — indicates that the Saudi side as represented by the CITC and the three companies is continuing to discuss with the Canadian company the containment of the service in terms of security and supervision and closure of the gaps that allow the passage of undesired messages, which is a legitimate right for controlling and avoiding the service’s negative aspects and averting the acts of sabotage it might cause.
Muhammad al-Ayadah, the director general of Mashail Al Khaleej Electronics Company, told Asharq Al-Awsat that he had expected for some time the reorganization of the “Blackberry” service in Saudi Arabia, especially the instant messaging one which lacks the supervision factor thus making it an easy tool for use by terrorist elements or saboteurs. He said the Canadian “Research in Motion” Company insisted on providing the instant messaging service which the Saudi CITC does not accept because this violates its rules, adding that the ban would not be to the advantage of the three companies because the “Blackberry” services market is a large and growing one and this justifies their negotiations with the Canadian company so as to reach solutions that reorganize the supervision of the instant messaging service.
Muhammad al-Ayadah urged the CITC to recommend alternatives from other equipment as well as additional features from the companies to their subscribers since the communications companies can offer more services that dispense with the “Blackberry” one in general as there are other smart cellular phones like iPhone which offer less costly alternatives and competitive services with no fees while the monthly subscription fee for the “Blackberry” service is 90 riyals ($26). He expected the sale of iPhones to rise after the ban and said there might be more demand for this product in future.