UAE restrictions will hit all wireless providers, says RIM

The UAE may be planning to curb enterprise services to very small businesses

Potential changes to wireless data services for very small business in the United Arab Emirates will affect the entire industry and not just BlackBerry services, Research In Motion said Saturday.

The company said that it was not being singled out by the telecom regulator, amidst reports that the regulator plans to curb BlackBerry enterprise services to business with fewer than 20 mobile subscriptions.

The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has confirmed to RIM that any potential policy regarding enterprise services in the UAE would be an industry-wide policy, not specific to BlackBerry, applying equally to all enterprise solution providers and with the intent of avoiding any impact on legitimate enterprise customers, RIM said in a statement.

RIM’s statement follows a report last week in The National, a newspaper in Abu Dhabi, that said the TRA had instructed local operator, Etisalat, that very small companies will have their BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) accounts terminated at the end of the month. Such customers would be able to move to BlackBerry Internet Service, which does not rely on private servers, the newspaper said.

The TRA did not return calls asking for comment.

The proposed rule comes at a time when some governments in the Middle East are facing protest movements that use online communications and social networks for planing and coordination. By imposing such a rule, the UAE may want higher control on the kind of users who will have access to encrypted services, analysts said.

The TRA said in a statement on Saturday that it confirms the continuation of all Blackberry services in the UAE to both individuals and to business customers, including BlackBerry messenger, BlackBerry email and BlackBerry browsing. It said it would clarify to operators any confusion with regard to TRA regulations, without providing the context for the announcement.

A number of countries, including India, are attempting to get access to corporate mail on BES. India holds that its security rules allow law enforcement agencies access to all communications when required. RIM has said that it is not technically feasible for it to provide access to BES communications, as the encryption keys are with customers. It has however offered solutions to the Indian government for lawful access to its other services.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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