UAE’s BlackBerry ban could be a bluff – analysts

Analysts suspect TRA move could be ploy to force RIM back to negotiating table

Tags: BlackBerryBlackBerry MessengerInformaOvumResearch In MotionUnited Arab Emirates
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UAE’s BlackBerry ban could be a bluff – analysts Analysts believe the ban may be an attempt to get concessions from RIM, but question the technical possibility of giving authorities more access to BlackBerry data. (Getty Images)
By  Ed Attwood Published  August 2, 2010

Debate is raging in the analyst community over whether the UAE will carry out its threat to ban BlackBerry services, or if the announcement is a ploy to push Canadian manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) back to the negotiating table.

"It [the suspension announcement] may very well be a bluff. The core issue remains that individual countries are getting increasingly sensitive to having data servers [in this case RIM's] being housed and managed remotely," said Shiv Putcha, principal emerging markets analyst at consultancy Ovum Telecoms.

"Throw in the encryption that RIM uses added to the remote servers and you have a situation where security agencies are unable to intercept calls and data transmissions. RIM is now faced with the choice of setting up servers in the UAE or at least a regional hub that is acceptable to the UAE authorities."

Putcha also indicated that - contrary to the rumours sweeping the country - it would not be possible to re-route BlackBerry services via another nearby nation, thus negating the regulator's suspension.

When questioned whether the TRA's announcement could be a bluff, Informa Telecoms & Media analyst Matthew Reed told Arabian Business: "It could be. I could be being blindly optimistic, but it could be a good way of putting pressure on RIM.

"The date of implementation is still ten weeks away, so there's a reasonable period for negotiations. They will be reluctant to make concessions, but it's possible that a face-saving solution for both sides could be reached," he added.

Such a move might also salve other local regulators which are also known to have concerns over the device's encryption.

Saudi Arabia has already confirmed a ban on the BlackBerry Messenger service from August, according to an official from Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC) who was interviewed on Al-Arabiya television.

In Bahrain, BlackBerry services technically already contravene the country's Lawful Access Regulation, although the regulator there has as yet not banned the service.

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