Saudi regulator clarifies BlackBerry services ban

UPDATE 1: Ban to hit only Messenger text service; UAE's decision on ban is 'final'.
Saudi regulator clarifies BlackBerry services ban
SERVICES SUSPENSION: Saudi Arabias CITC said it had informed the kingdoms three mobile operators of a ban on a BlackBerry service, without specifying which one. (Bloomberg Images)
By Agencies
Wed 04 Aug 2010 02:27 AM

A ban on BlackBerry in Saudi Arabia will affect only its BlackBerry Messenger text messaging service but an August 6 deadline for its enforcement is final, a spokesman for the telecommunications regulator told Reuters on Wednesday.

"(The ban) is only for the Messenger. Negotiations are still going, the deadline is final," said Sultan al-Malik from the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC).

CITC said on Tuesday it had informed the kingdom's three mobile operators of a ban on a BlackBerry service, without specifying which one, Reuters added.

Meanwhile, the UAE's decision to suspend Research In Motion’s BlackBerry services from Oct. 11 is “final,” Mohammed Al Ghanem, director general at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, said in a statement on state-run WAM news agency.

“We remain open to discussions in order that an acceptable, regulatory-compliant solution might be developed and applied,” Al Ghanem was cited as saying on the news agency’s website on Wednesday, a Bloomberg report said.

According to an earlier report by newswire Bloomberg, Saudi Arabia has ordered the suspension of Research In Motion Ltd’s BlackBerry smartphone service starting Aug 6, the state run Saudi Press Agency reported, citing the telecommunications authority.

The suspension is pending RIM’s implementation of regulatory requirements for the service, the Riyadh based Communications and Information Technology Commission said in a statement carried by the news agency.

It didn’t specify the requirement or say what services will be blocked. BlackBerrys let users send email, browse the Internet and make phone calls, the Bloomberg report said.

RIM, expanding outside North America to counter slowing growth in the US, is facing mounting challenges as some developing countries tighten restrictions on mobile communications, it added.

The UAE, home to Middle East business hub Dubai, said on Aug 1 it may suspend BlackBerry email services in October because of concern the devices could be used in crimes, the newswire said.

Days earlier, an official in India said that country may ban BlackBerry email use.

The Saudi authority said it asked the kingdom’s three mobile phone operators more than a year ago to work with RIM in order to meet the requirements for the service, Bloomberg added.

In an emailed statement, Waterloo, Ontario based RIM said it “cooperates with all governments with a consistent standard and the same degree of respect.”

RIM said: “Any claims that we provide, or have ever provided, something unique to the government of one country that we have not offered to the government of all countries, are unfounded.”

The company said it can’t read or provide access to its corporate customers’ emails, because its system is built so that only the client companies themselves can access the messages, Bloomberg said.

RIM didn’t say whether it can access its consumer customers’ emails. Spokeswoman Tenille Kennedy didn’t immediately return a message seeking further comment, it added.

RIM says it has more than 550 carriers and distribution partners in more than 175 countries.

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