UAE Averts ban on Blackberry Services


Blackberry was in news lately because of a certain dispute between one of the biggest business market for the Smartphones that is United Arab Emirates and Blackberry services. The United Arab Emirates gave a threat to cut off Blackberry services from the region but on Friday UAE backed off the imminent threat. If the plan for the banning could have moved on, it could very much have harmed the business friendly reputation of the country.

This last minute decision to avert the ban has ended a long strained relationship which has been going on for about two months between the country’s Telecomm administration and Canadian cellphone maker company RIM. Blackberry is very much popular with the gadget loving consumers and business people of this Gulf region.

The Ban was due to take its effect from Monday; the ban was basically on messaging, web service and the email service. The government said that the ban is because of some security reasons. Almost half a million users who are using the services locally and a large percentage of Blackberry using on-the-go businessmen of the region would have been affected by this ban. The Dubai Airport which is one of the biggest and busiest Airports of the region handles about 100,000 passengers everyday and out of this total number, a large number belongs to the class of Blackberry using businessmen.

Although, a number of countries in the recent times have threatened to shut down the services of the Blackberry and these countries include the likes of India and Saudi Arabia, but the proposed Ban by UAE brought a lot of attention because the country is a sort of a global business Hub and the region is also tech-savvy, highly wired and a transportation Hub.

The Telecommunication regulator of the Emirates region announced that a deal has been struck with the Blackberry makers Research In Motion. The devices and the services have been brought down into a kind of accordance with the local Telecomm laws. TRA which is the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of the region provided little details but they said in a statement that the services will not be terminated. The wording of the announcement of TRA suggests that from now, there won’t be an issue between the two parties. TRA acknowledged the compliance of Research In Motion and said in the statement that “the positive engagement and collaboration of Research In Motion (RIM) in reaching this regulatory compliant outcome.”

TRA reps were not present to comment on the decision and RIM also declined to comment on UAE situation regarding this ban. Shardul Shirmani who is a telecomm analyst at a firm IHS Global insight said that the Blackberry makers Research In Motion would likely have given the local authorities access to the encrypted data that RIM uses to safeguard the user’s communication or they might have allowed UAE telecomm authorities access to some of its servers. According to Shirmani, both of these parties might have come on a mutual consensus regarding the usage of the services.

Last month, the co-CEO Jim Balsillie said that the company has no clear method of offering the officials of the management with the text of the encrypted emails that they sent or that they receive on their phones.

The consumer version of the Blackberry phones carries a certain low level of encryption as compare to the ones that are made solely for the corporate customers. Emirates authorities would also like to have the control over these corporate phones as well. Saudi Arabia in August backed down from a similar threat of blocking the Blackberry services in the country, but then after a close door talk with RIM, the decision was changed and the services continued on to be active.

In the same case, India also removed the plan to ban the services in the country after Indian telecommunication authority demand RIM that they have to provide the encrypted data to Indian Intelligence Agencies and law enforcement institutions. New Delhi has given a two months time to Research In Motion to come up with a viable solution starting from 31st August. Countries like Lebanon and Indonesia have also raised concern over the issue but till now they have not announced any kind of ban on these services.

Majority of UAE users were thrilled that the Ban on the services have been averted and that they can enjoy the uninterrupted services of Blackberry. But some corporate customers might want to know more details about the understanding between the cellphone makers and UAE telecomm authorities.

Blackberry devices are popular mainly because of the mere reason that the data sent through them is pretty secure and safe. According to Reed, a telecomm analyst in a local firm, RIM’s big corporate clients will be wondering that what kind of settlement has taken place between the two parties. According to Reed, a service ban would have put a very negative impact on the economy of UAE and this is not the reason for which they want to jeopardize their business friendly reputation in the world.

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