New Delhi: Amid talks with mobile phone firms over the Indian government’s concerns about alleged security threats involving the popular BlackBerry email services, senior officials of the department of telecommunications, or DoT, say they are looking for an amicable solution rather than any umbrella ban on the service.
“With so many users already in the country, we do not want to take any short-term measure. We would like to know how countries, such as France, have dealt with similar issues and then come up with a solution, which is in interest of the users as well as the security agencies,” said a senior DoT official, who did not wish to be named.
Officials at DoT as well as those at India’s security agencies say security is potentially jeopardized because data sent through BlackBerry travels through an encrypted security layer that cannot be read by the government agencies.
A BlackBerry handset
Mobile phone companies serve at least 400,000 BlackBerry users in India. The technology itself, which allows phone users to access their emails and other data applications on the move through a secure, encrypted mode on a hand-held device that doubles up as a mobile phone, is owned by Canadian firm Research In Motion Ltd, or RIM.
India’s telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura is expected to meet telecom service providers and executives at RIM on Friday. Calls made to his office were not returned. A department official however, confirmed that DoT has indeed been in touch with RIM officials from Canada apart from hearing representations from various mobile phone firms.
For mobile phone firms, the BlackBerry users form a relatively small, growing and lucrative segment, with average revenue per user (Arpu) of about Rs2,000. An average mobile users’ monthly Arpu is around Rs350.
Last week, Tata Teleservices Ltd managing director Anil Sardana told reporters in Delhi that the government has not yet cleared his company’s BlackBerry application despite rival mobile firms already offering that service in the country.
Contacted by Mint on Wednesday, Satchit Gaekwad, a spokesperson for RIM in India, said his company works with governments across 130 countries, but declined to comment specifically about the company’s stand in India.
RIM’s BlackBerry service competes with products from rival phone companies such as Palm Inc. and Nokia Oyj, which offer email and other data access capabilities on their handsets.
Meanwhile, BlackBerry users such as N.S. Bharath, who works with a software firm in Bangalore, insists the service is actually safer than other technologies. “Even if I lose my phone, nobody will be able to access the data, including the service provider, since it’s encrypted even better than some of the online banking transactions,” he said.