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Etisalat to launch BlackBerry in Gulf

Telecoms giant Etisalat has struck a deal with wireless innovation leaders Research In Motion (RIM), to bring the first BlackBerry personal organizers to the Middle East region.

Telecoms giant Etisalat has struck a deal with wireless innovation leaders Research In Motion (RIM), to bring the first BlackBerry personal organizers to the Middle East region.

Two handsets will initially be available, offering support for email, phone, SMS, Internet, organiser and corporate data applications. The quad-band devices operate on Etisalat’s GSM/GPRS network, and will benefit from more than 100 global roaming relationships in over 40 countries.

“The end-to-end BlackBerry solution is now launched in the UAE and fully supported through Etisalat,” said Essa Al Haddad, chief marketing officer for the network providers.

“Results from pilot testing show that the market in the UAE is ready for BlackBerry,” he continued. “We are confident that the solution we offer – the handheld devices, software, wireless services and on-site professional services – will all be embraced by the corporate and technology markets. We aim to address the serious business needs of the UAE’s high powered, and very mobile, corporate workforce.”

Etisalat revealed the hardware would cost between US$680 and US$817. The telcoms provider will charge a setup and support fee of US$6000. It is initially targeting 10,000 corporate subscribers.

Charmaine Eggberry, vice president, Enterprise Business Unit, Research In Motion, said that he hoped the handheld devices would prove as popular in the Middle East and Gulf regions as they had in other parts of the world.

“With more than five million subscribers today, BlackBerry is a popular and proven solution that continues to gain momentum around the world as organisations seek ways to keep their mobile employees connected to the information and communications important to their day,” he said. “We are pleased to be working with Etisalat… to offer BlackBerry in the UAE. This is a significant opportunity in one of the world’s fastest growing economic centres.”

To support the launch, Etisalat has entered into a strategic partnership with Emitac Mobile Solutions (EMS), a Dubai-based mobile systems integrator and established provider of wireless handheld business solutions. EMS will assist Etisalat in launching, delivering, supporting and selling BlackBerry from Etisalat in the UAE.

Earlier this year, RIM reached a US$612.5m settlement to end a dispute that could have closed the service in the US. The Canadian firm revealed it had struck a “full and final settlement” with American patent-holding business NTP, which had claimed RIM stole its technology. The portable device has three million American users.

In March, the US government asked a federal judge to hold off from a possible shutdown of the BlackBerry service, because of the system’s popularity among key government employees.

RIM had argued that a shutdown of Blackberry services would impair critical public services.

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