Blackberry update

01 August 2010


Saudi Arabia is the next GCC country after the UAE to consider suspending Blackberry Messenger services.

Reuters has reported that the kingdom’s telecoms regulator Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has sent a memo banning Blackberry messenger. No reason has been given.

The move comes after the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) announced on 1 August that it was banning the services due ‘certain Blackberry services allow users to act without any legal accountability, causing judicial, social and national security concerns for the UAE’.

The UAE is suspending Blackberry Messenger, Blackberry Email and Blackberry Web-browsing services from 11 October.

Faten Bader, a senior telecoms research analyst with Jordan’s Arab Advisors group believes that the profits the UAE’s major telecoms companies, Etisalat and Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du), will be affected due to the large number of Blackberry users in the Gulf state.

“I think banning this kind of services will affect Etisalat and du’s revenues significantly,” Bader says. “It is good news for Blackberry’s competitors like the iPhone and Nokia as they will be able to offer alternative services to customers.”

US research company IDC has claimed that around 187,000 Blackberry handsets, made by Canada’s Research in Motion (Rim), were sold in the UAE in 2009 and that around 500,000 people use the technology.

In 2009 Etisalat made around $2.4bn in net profits while du made $143.76m. Neither company has declared how large a proportion of their profits came from providing Blackberry services.

However, in a recent survey conducted by MEED 81 per cent of subscribers polled said that they used the Blackberry handset and its associated services to carry out their day-to-day work activities.  

The UAE has been voicing concerns about the Blackberry handset since 2007. In 2009 Etisalat attempted to secretly install spyware on Blackberry handsets in an attempt to monitor use.

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