Saudi-BlackBerry fix deadline passes

By Reuters
Posted Aug. 9, 2010 at 5:12 p.m.

A deadline Saudi Arabia has fixed for BlackBerry manufacturer Research In Motion LtdĀ  and local mobile phone operators to address security concerns has lapsed, but the handset’s services continue to operate normally.

The Communications and Information Telecommunications Commission (CITC) on Saturday gave the kingdom’s three mobile firms until Monday before it proceeds with a threat to cut the BlackBerry’s Messenger function for some 700,000 users in the kingdom, a threat which it had already delayed last week.

The reprieve, according to CITC, should allow the three companies and the Canadian manufacturer to test “proposed solutions to fulfill” its regulatory requirements, without saying what these were.

A Saudi official said on Sunday the Canadian manufacturer and Saudi mobile companies were testing three servers through which data and communications coming in and out of Saudi Arabia would transit in addition to RIM’s servers in Canada.

About 10 minutes into Tuesday in Saudi Arabia, BlackBerry services — including the BlackBerry Messenger function — appeared to be working normally, but CITC has not issued any statement.

The Canadian manufacturer has come under scrutiny from other countries as well, including India, Lebanon and Algeria, regarding access to its encrypted network that governments want monitored to avert possible threats to national security.

Before the deadline, CITC’s Governor Abdularahmane al-Jaafari told Reuters: “We will issue a statement before the deadline.”

He declined to elaborate.

A source at one of the three telecom firms said they were still awaiting for CITC’s verdict.

Saudi Arabia is RIM’s biggest Middle East market but account for less than 2 percent its global customers.

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