Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian maker of the BlackBerry device, is reportedly close to a deal with UAE telecom operators to allow it to offer internet-based voice and video services for the first time in the Gulf state.
The company had to launch its new BlackBerry 10 in the UAE last month without the BlackBerry Messenger Voice (BBMV) feature allows customers to make free phone calls over Wi-Fi.
Zawya Dow Jones said in a report that Du and Blackberry have confirmed that VoIP and internet video testing has begun on the Blackberry 10, and said they expect to launch the service to customers in the near future. Etisalat declined to comment.
"Our partners are currently testing the service. They will announce availability when they're ready," a BlackBerry official in Dubai told the newswire.
RIM has faced resistance in the Gulf to the launch of so-called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, because of fears that they would pose a threat to the revenues from traditional voice services offered by the region's carriers.
In 2010, the UAE came close to banning Blackberry services because the government was unable to monitor text messages sent via the BBM system.
The two sides subsequently reached an undisclosed agreement to allow continued Blackberry sales.
Skype, a service which allows users to make phone calls via the internet, is also partially blocked by operators in the UAE.
RIM reported a narrower-than-expected loss in financial results posted in September 2012. A one-time smartphone pioneer, RIM has failed to keep pace with rivals such as Apple and Samsung Electronics, and its stock price has tumbled about 70 percent over the past year while its market share shriveled.
In July last year, BlackBerry services in the UAE faced severe disruption, with users for a time losing access to messaging and email as RIM's network grappled with technical challenges.
Shipments of BlackBerry smartphones were 7.4m in the third quarter of 2012, outpacing Wall Street's expectation of about 6.9m.
The Ontario-based company reported a net loss of $235m compared with a profit of $329m in the same period a year earlier.
The launch of RIM's VoIP service would provide the company with an advantage over rival handset providers who are still unable to provide such services.
BBM is one of BlackBerry's most popular offerings, with more than 60 million active members using the free instant messaging service.
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