India prods wireless providers on BlackBerry ban

The government ups the ante by sending letters to wireless operators informing them they will have to shut down BlackBerry services if RIM doesn't comply with demands by August 31.

The Indian government has sent letters to the country's major wireless service providers informing them that if BlackBerry maker Research In Motion does not meet its demands to loosen security by August 31, then they must block e-mail and instant messaging services.

The government informed RIM last week that if it was not given access to users' e-mail, IM, and Web browsing that it would have the service shut down on the final day of the month.

BlackBerry around the world

Now it looks like the country is starting to make good on its threat. Tata Teleservices, one of India's largest cell phone operators, confirmed in a statement Tuesday that it had been contacted by government officials and instructed to shut off the service August 31, according to a Reuters report.

"We have received a letter...asking us to ensure that legal intervention capability is put in place for BlackBerry services by 31 August 2010," the company said in a statement.

The BBC confirmed that other major wireless operators in India had also received similar letters.

The news is the latest in what is turning out to be a drawn-out drama between RIM, based in Canada, and governments throughout the world that say they are concerned about the tight encryption and security inherent in RIM's products and communications services. The governments say RIM's airtight design prevents security officials from being able to monitor communications by terrorists and other criminals.

India is just one of several countries threatening to shut down RIM's Blackberry services. Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia also threatened to cut off service . RIM has supposedly struck a deal with Saudi Arabia .

RIM is in a difficult spot because its security is one of the main reasons that large companies and even government agencies use its BlackBerry Enterprise server and smartphones. But as the North American market becomes more saturated and competition from Apple and others such as Google and Microsoft heats up, RIM is finding itself looking for growth in developing markets, such as the Middle East and India.

The company is not saying much about the negotiations with individual countries. But last week after India announced its ban, RIM said that it is cooperating with officials "in the spirit of supporting legal and national security requirements, while also preserving the lawful needs of citizens and corporations."

 

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