By Arabian Business Staff and Reuters
UPDATE 3: Saudi regulator orders telcos to freeze BlackBerry Messenger service this month.
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.”For all the latest UAE news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Regression in a country that prides itself on seeming progressive. Why is this the only country that has a problem with this?? There are countries that have much more at stake to secure. I think it is a profitably issue. Opportunism and bad judgement. Welcome back to the stone age.
I hope they will not be charging us for the services come this date but knowing the shambles that is Etisalat it will take them ages to sort out the correct billing for everyone
TRA should coordinate the action plan and resolve the problem rather than just decide to stop the service. This is not good for UAE's reputation as this comes at a serious cost and it may backfire.
If RIM will provide them access to their clients data they will be more than happy to have these options. First of all they made a big mistake by allowing kids to have blackberry , I never saw in any other country 12 years old kids having blackberry and chatting on it. It is pure business device so it is supposed to be for professional use. Now they want to block it, good for them. Kids will find another way. but what about those people who are frequently travelling to dubai or who have already spend a lots of money in blackberry infrastructure. Since beginning it was clear that blackberry data is always outshore if that time there was no problem then why sudden. I hope next they are not going to say that IPHONE is replacement of blackberry. If you read security reaserch in Email Soulution no one can beat blackberry. and IPHONE is most unsecure device ever created any one can easily gain access to your private data ;-) Welcome to Stone age Peopl !
From what I can make out, BB's, i-phones, Nokia units and pretty much every handset that can receive email would also have to have their services cut, as Etisalat & Du cannot regulate email content sent to devices from overseas to any handheld devices... not just BBM's. Massive can of worms, again ill thought out, rash statement making nonsense. A city that ban's all mobile email / messaging comm's in this day and age will become a laughing stock to the rest of the world I fear impact on local business on a scale they have not even considered, back to 1995 away from your desk cannot respond action. Will they also ban MMS on regular mobiles and sending urls links to websites etc via SMS... where do you stop? I'm stocking up on fax machines! K
'social, judicial and national security concerns'?! yeah right. it's quite clear why they want to ban the Blackberry: they want more money and more control. my guess would be that the UAE stands to make more money from iPhones, but they are being ignored in favour of Blackberries.
watch out guys, we're in danger of being told to go home (lol!)
How exactly do they reconcile their dreams of being a business hub while simultaneously trying to take control over communication? Honestly, this just reflects poorly on the UAE - do bad things happen over BBM? Sure, but worse things happen at most of the nightclubs in this country! Please tell me that Plastik, etc are in keeping with the ethical and moral standards of this country. The TRA has to realize that the UAE is a bastion of liberal sentiment in the region, and the reason that people choose to work here is because of the liberal attitudes. On the whole, I fail to understand why etisalat/du NEED to spy on us.
I think the main point TRA is not understanding, that the idea and the purpose of the internet is decentralization and global coverage. It will never be locally controllable and limited. NEVER! Every email sent, every website loaded is stored on a server which might be located on the other side of the globe... hosted by a foreign company. So they have to ban the internet in its total when they cannot accept Blackberry messages or email handeled by a non-national provider. Or is it all about control and cencorship? C'mon... people who want to go beside national security use techniques like encryption or VPN to avoid sniffing and nobody can avoid this. Except the cut of the internet in the UAE...
I am so happy for my own personal reasons and concerns as a mother of a child with a blackberry phone that the so called BBM service is going to be suspended. You don't know how much damage this mobile has caused to our youths, and I am sure that many other parents agree with me. THANK YOU TRA AND UAE. Finally!