Govt gives mobile operators deadline on BlackBerry

Govt gives mobile operators deadline on BlackBerry

New Delhi: India, which has threatened to block some BlackBerry services over security worries, has formally asked mobile operators to ensure a monitoring system for the smartphone’s services by 31 August.

At least three mobile operators confirmed they had received letters from the Department of Telecommunications giving them a deadline to put in place monitoring capability for BlackBerry Messenger and secured Enterprise email services.

“We have received a letter ... asking us to ensure that legal intervention capability is put in place for BlackBerry services by 31 August 2010," a statement from Tata Teleservices, one of the operators given the deadline, said.

India is the latest country to step up pressure on RIM, which has built the BlackBerry’s reputation around confidentiality.

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Business professionals and politicians prefer the device. Governments, including Saudi Arabia, fear it could become a tool for terrorists to plan attacks or those breaking Islamic laws.

New Delhi says it will shut Blackberry services if RIM does not allow access to its messaging or secured email services, threatening its future in the world’s fastest-growing telecoms market.

A shutdown would affect about one million users in India out of a total 41 million BlackBerry users worldwide, allowing them to use the devices only for calls and Internet browsing.

A senior government source told Reuters that a RIM technical team was likely to meet officials from the telecommunication ministry and intelligence agencies on Tuesday.

“The onus is on service providers to ensure that they have some sort of interception mechanism in place before the deadline ends," a senior Interior security official told Reuters.

“It is binding upon them and the DoT, which is the nodal agency, will ensure that it is followed strictly in the interest of national security."

A source at one of India’s biggest telecom operators said the government wants “suitable interception and monitoring" solution in readable format for the law enforcement agencies.

According to a government source, RIM has already assured India of limited access to BlackBerry instant messages by 1 September, and promised talks this week on monitoring its more secure corporate email.

RIM has lost more than 11% of its market capitalisation since 1 August, when governments in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said they would also consider a ban.

But some analysts say the fall has been overdone and expect a bounce as RIM resolves the issue.