UAE Not Cutting BlackBerry Services After All

by Jeff Wiener on October 12, 2010

Days before the BlackBerry ban was set to take place in the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf state has backed off of the move. The plan was to shut off BlackBerry messaging, browsing services and email.

The ban would have been significant, impacting an estimated half a million users in the UAE, including foreign travellers with BlackBerry units.

So why was the ban and subsequent disaster averted? According to the state news agency, Research In Motion reached a deal with the regulator that brought their devices “into compliance” with local laws. “All Blackberry services in the UAE will continue to operate as normal and no suspension of service will occur” as planned Monday, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said in a statement issued through WAM.

In terms of what RIM has done to stave off the ban, nobody seems to know. Specifics aren’t coming out at this point, but it’s clear that the Waterloo company has made a series of concessions to make their product line more palatable to the whims of the government in the Gulf federation.

For its part, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority all but offered a round of applause when it  praised “the positive engagement and collaboration of Research In Motion (RIM) in reaching this regulatory compliant outcome.”

RIM has effectively been sidestepping blocks and bans for the last few months now. August saw the company duck a similar ban in India by allowing for the location of one of its servers in the country. A similar solution was reached in Saudi Arabia, with the location of a server there appeasing the government and regulatory authorities.

It could be argued, then, that a solution of that sort was reached in UAE.

As for RIM, they continue to argue the importance of neutrality in these dealings. “RIM assures its customers that it genuinely tries to be as cooperative as possible with governments in the spirit of supporting legal and national security requirements, while also preserving the lawful needs of citizens and corporations,” the company said in a recent statement.

The question of how far RIM is going to take these concessions is an interesting one and it’s something we’ve discussed at length here at The Telecom Blog. But as long as the company keeps pinning its hopes on the international community, situations like these are bound to come up in nations where the definition of liberty differs greatly from that which we are perhaps more used to.

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