BlackBerry Battered in the UAE

Big news here in the oasis today which has caused rather a lot of fuzz within the expat community.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE -TRA - has said that BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry E-mail and BlackBerry Web-browsing services in the UAE will be suspended as of October 11. This was officially announced today by government news agency WAM. This will affect BlackBerry owners whether they signed up with Etisalat or du, the only two telecommunication service providers in the country.

Needless to say, quite a few people here were not exactly thrilled with the fact that a vast portion of the user interface on their phones can no longer be accessed or used as intended as from that date.

Alledgedly, the suspension is a result of the failure of ongoing attempts, dating back to 2007, to bring BlackBerry services in the UAE in line with UAE telecommunications regulations. Now, I have been here a fair amount of time and I have witnessed the very thorough marketing campaigns launced repeatedly by both service providers to get the public to sign-up for subscriptions for the BlacBerry service. It is an extremely popular series of handsets here in the UAE and I know loads of people who are huge fans of BlackBerrys and swear they couldn't live without it. I myself is an iPhone evangelist though, so I am really not affected by the fuzz, but I do respect those less fortunate amongst friends.

Both telecommunications operators, Etisalat and du,were informed of the decision earlier today. The notification was delivered with an instruction to ensure minimal consumer disruption in the provision of alternative services.

Shortly after the announcement, Etisalat issued the following statement:

"This is an important decision made by the Regulatory Authority and we fully understand the legal and social considerations behind the decision.

"Etisalat has an obligation to act within the law and the regulations of the TRA, while at the same time, providing our customers with the best service. Etisalat has a significant share of customers in the UAE for its mobility services, including BlackBerry customers and hence it is very important for us to ensure our customers enjoy continuity of services. Etisalat's focus at the current time is to make sure its valued customers experience continuity of mobility services. In line with its commitment towards its customers, Etisalat will soon be announcing a range of alternative mobility products and services for its existing BlackBerry customers."

The core of the problem seems to be that BlackBerry data is immediately exported offshore, where it is managed by BlackBerry servers in the US and elsewhere. Thus not passing through the filtering systems in place in the UAE where attempts to access websites or services which are considered to be not in line with UAE customs and values and otherwise considered to be offensive are blocked. BlackBerry data services are currently the only data services operating in the UAE where this is the case.

Since the BlackBerry concept and user services, however, are based on a centralised server platform, obviously it is and has been possible to access such sites which are not in line with the the UAE regulations.

Commenting on the announcement, the TRA director general said: "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."

I think the matter will be resolved eventually since most normal operations on the BlackBerry like checking e-mails, texting, phoning etc will still be intact. However, from 11th October all traffic will pass through the handle filters and all traffic will thus pass through the networks of etisalat and du. At the end of the day, they will be the winners since the traffic on their networks is going to go up significantly.

On the other hand, today the number of BlackBerry handsets being offered for sale on went up quite a lot. If you want to acquire a cheep one, now might be the perfect time. Maybe, everyone will end up getting an iPhone in the end.


alexender joe said...

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Josie said...

what a load of bullshit and what a bunch of shitty excuses. They really need to get a grip. Makes me wonder if I could ever stay in such a place! Thank you very much for sharing.

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Dubai Dreams said...

Not clever. This hardly seems the time to aggravate the business community.

Cheap Calls to Dubai said...

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