Preliminary deal reached to avert BlackBerry ban in Saudi Arabia

8 Aug 2010

Good news may be around the corner for visitors to Saudi Arabia with BlackBerry handsets. Negotiations between Research In Motion (RIM) and the country's telecommunications regulatory watchdog are making progress, suggesting that the ban, which was rolled out early on Friday, August 6, 2010, may be reversed.

The BBC's Middle East correspondent reported on Friday that at 1130 local time, the messenger service came to a halt. Mobily, a telecommunications service provider, had stopped the service along with state-owned Saudi Telecom, which also blocked emails and web browsing functions.

However, yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s mobile operators claimed that the ban could be cancelled and instead, a special server would be set up in the country, allowing the government to encrypt the data transmitted from the handsets. Canadian trade minister, Peter Van Loan, said that Canadian officials were also involved in talks between RIM (which is based in Canada) and the Gulf countries to address their concerns.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are not the only ones concerned with RIM’s highly secure network. India has also recently raised concerns about national security issues and is still negotiating a solution. Co-CEO of RIM, Michael Lazardis, stated in an interview with the Wall Street Journal: "Everything on the internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue.

"If they can’t deal with the internet, they should shut it off."

Amidst all this pressure on RIM, its shares have also fallen, an indication that the company is starting to cave in.

Alisha Haridasani

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