Saudi follows UAE in BlackBerry ban

UPDATE 3: Saudi regulator orders telcos to freeze BlackBerry Messenger service this month.

SHOCK DECISION: The UAE’s telecoms regulator has announced that BlackBerry services in the country will be suspended from 11 October. (Getty Images)

SHOCK DECISION: The UAE’s telecoms regulator has announced that BlackBerry services in the country will be suspended from 11 October. (Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia's telecoms regulator has ordered local operators to freeze the Messenger function for Blackberry users this month, just hours after the UAE said it was suspending BlackBerry services in the country from October.

A board member at state-controlled Saudi Telecom (STC) confirmed the regulator had imposed a ban. Speaking on Al Arabiya television, he said the Kingdom had not gone as far as the UAE, but urged BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) to reconsider its stance on encrypted data.

"UAE took a bolder step than Saudi Arabia whereas Saudi Arabia is only banning one, the Messenger," said Abdulrahman Mazi. "I hope this is only a kind of pressure on RIM to take steps to provide information when needed."

Earlier on Sunday the UAE announced that BlackBerry services in the country will be suspended from 11 October this year.

The UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said that the suspension was due to the failure of ongoing attempts since 2007 to bring BlackBerry services in the country in line with local regulations.

"With no solution available and in the public interest, in order to affect resolution of this issue, as of October 11, 2010, Blackberry Messenger, Blackberry Email and Blackberry Web-browsing services will be suspended until an acceptable solution can be developed and applied," TRA director general Mohamed Al Ghanim said in a statement.

"The TRA notes that Blackberry appears to be compliant in similar regulatory environments of other countries, which makes non-compliance in the UAE both disappointing and of great concern."

Speaking to newswire Reuters, Al Ghanim denied that the move was for the purposes of state censorship.

"It's a final decision but we are continuing discussions with them," he said. "Censorship has got nothing to do with this. What we are talking about is suspension due to the lack of compliance with UAE telecommunications regulations."

BlackBerry devices, introduced in the UAE in 2006, allow users to send messages that can’t be monitored as allowed for under the country’s 2007 Safety, Emergency and National Security rules, the regulator said last week.

Although such communications should fall under the remit of that law, technical encryption allowed them to avoid monitoring, it said Sunday.

UAE telcos Etisalat and du were informed of the TRA’s decision on Sunday. They were also instructed to ensure minimal consumer disruption in the provision of alternative services.

“All Blackberry services fall within the UAE regulatory framework developed by the TRA since 2007, however because of Blackberry's technical configuration, some Blackberry services operate beyond the enforcement of these regulations,” said a statement issued by the TRA.

“Blackberry data is immediately exported off-shore, where it is managed by a foreign, commercial organization. Blackberry data services are currently the only data services operating in the UAE where this is the case.

“Today's decision is based on the fact that, in their current form, certain Blackberry services allow users to act without any legal accountability, causing judicial, social and national security concerns for the UAE.”

Related:
Topics
Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

NOTE: Comments posted on arabianbusiness.com may be printed in the magazine Arabian Business

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: tehsin

Today in the news, RIM has allowed India to monitor the communication. They have done that to US/UK, I believe. They have also compromised with China on sharing security codes. Why not the same treatment with GCC. Although I am not in favour of BB ban, but looking at this discrimination, any nation would act in the same way. Its a sacrifice for UAE, but in my opinion it is justified to give RIM a message of national integrity. I feel whole middle east should act in-sync.

Posted by: lj

One step forwards, four steps backwards? Its no wonder poeple have a short term approach when moving to or setting up in the gulf. There is no reason to adopt a long term approach as the rules keep changing.

Posted by: H20 Cooled

As if RIM cares about this ban in the UAE. The total number of users in the Middle East is a fraction of what the total U.S. annual sales are. If Europe, North America and Asia accept the RIM arrangement then perhaps the UAE needs to bark up a different tree.

Posted by: Mart

I'm shocked that a freedom loving nation like Saudi would contemplate following the UAE's lead.

Posted by: Sami

Reports claim that UK residents are the most spied on nation in the world. Surely, if the UK regulators have not banned BB then I can?t see why the UAE want to do that when countries like the USA and the UK that are security paranoid have not done so.

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
A natural move: How Dubai Chamber is strengthening its ties in Latin America

A natural move: How Dubai Chamber is strengthening its ties in Latin America

With vast resources and more than half-a-billion people, the...

Raising the bar: DLA Piper plans fresh growth in the Gulf

Raising the bar: DLA Piper plans fresh growth in the Gulf

Legal firm DLA Piper’s Middle East business recorded 10 percent...

Virtue and Vice: The world according to Shane Smith

Virtue and Vice: The world according to Shane Smith

Vice Media co-founder and chief executive Shane Smith set a new...

Most Discussed
  • 9
    Revealed: huge disparity in Dubai school fees

    I recall a recent study by Alpen Capital suggesting that the average cost of a child's entire life of schooling in Dubai is about AED 1 million. Although... more

    Monday, 29 May 2017 9:21 AM - New Expat
  • 3
    How Saudi Arabia blundered into OPEC oil cut

    Well written piece. Clearly the pressure on OPEC countries holding to their quotas will become even harder. Nigeria etc. are desperate to pump & sell a... more

    Monday, 29 May 2017 9:18 AM - Victory Red
sponsoredTracking