UAE scraps BlackBerry ban at the eleventh hour

With only a few days left before it was due to be instated, the UAE’s proposed ban on BlackBerries has been cancelled.  

In an official statement, the UAE regulator confirmed that “BlackBerry services are now compliant with the UAE’s telecommunications regulatory framework…all BlackBerry services in the UAE will continue to operate as normal and no suspension of service will occur.”

Due to begin today, the ban was announced two months ago. Security concerns cited as the main grounds for the proposal, as the UAE’s security authorities were unable to monitor BlackBerry traffic, as the device operates using encrypted servers which are intended to protect user privacy.

Not all BlackBerry services were covered by the ban – voice and SMS were exempt, while the main areas of concern were instant messaging, email and web browsing. Although the ban is not going ahead, operators in the country – including Etisalat – have begun offering ‘substitute’ contracts, which provide consumers with a device with similar capabilities and services to the BlackBerry.

RIM has already averted a ban on its smartphone in India by allowing the country’s security services access to its encrypted networks via “technical solutions”; a nationwide ban on the device is pending as the Indian authorities test the system’s capabilities against their requirements.

Although RIM has presumably come to a similar agreement with the UAE’s government, the firm insists that it maintains a “consistent global standard” in regulating access to its networks, and does not agree to “special deals” that would grant certain countries unrestricted access.

RBC Captial Markets estimates the number of BlackBerry users in India at around 1.1 million. The sum total of BlackBerry users in Saudi Arabia and the UAE is even higher, at around 1.2 million.

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