BlackBerry Limps Back To Life

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BlackBerry maker RIM says services are now working in the EMEA region, but American users still face disruptions

BlackBerry data services around the world are limping back to life, following an outage which has been disrupting  services since Monday.

Research in Motion (RIM) – the company behind the smartphones – said there had been a “significant increase” in service levels in Europe, the Middle East, Africa (EMEA) and India. Blackberry users in the US, Canada and Latin America may still experience some delays, but traffic throughput is increasing in those countries too, the company said.

“Our global teams are continuing to work as quickly as possible to restore full and consistent service across all regions,” said RIM in a statement.

Persistent problems

The news will come as a relief to many BlackBerry owners, who have spent the best part of this week without a data connection. After an initial outage on Monday in the EMEA region, RIM claimed to have fixed the problem, but online services crashed again on Tuesday, and problems have persisted since then.

RIM said the trouble was caused by a “core switch failure” within RIM’s infrastructure. “Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested. As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible,” the company said on Tuesday.

On Wednesday it was reported that the trouble had spread to North America. In a press conference yesterday David Yach, the chief technology officer of software for RIM, claimed that the impact to its services in North America was not from further failures within the network, but rather from the backlog of email traffic from the EMEA region.

RIM’s chief information officer Robin Bienfait has apologised for the service disruption and said the company will work to regain customers’ trust.

“You’ve depended on us for reliable, real-time communications, and right now we’re letting you down. We are taking this very seriously and have people around the world working around the clock to address this situation,” he said

However, a leading investor in BlackBerry maker RIM has called for the company to sack its chief executives and put itself up for sale. “Everybody is in support of a sale of RIM or another value creative transaction,” Jaguar chief executive Vic Aboini told Reuters, adding that the company could be split into a network company, a device company and a patents company.

Users whose smartphones have come back online are also reportedly using them to ask the company for compensation for their three days cut off from BlackBerry services, according to the Daily Mail. RIM has made no comment on the compensation issue so far.

Bad news for RIM

The outage could accelerate the already steep decline in BlackBerry users. Even before the outage, analysts were predicting disaster for the company:

“With only about 16.5 million US users and an average loss of half a million users per month, unless something drastic happens, RIM could lose its entire US user base by the end of next year,” said analyst Horace Dediu of Asymco on Friday.

According to Ovum analyst Nick Dillon, however, it is a testament to the success and ubiquity of the BlackBerry service how widely the disruption is being felt, both across business and consumer users.

“This is the first major disruption to the BlackBerry service since 2009, during which time the number of BlackBerry users has doubled,” he said. “However, this period of sustained downtime will again call into question RIM’s reliance on its centralised network architecture. Despite the benefits the network brings in real-time delivery of email and data efficiency, it remains significant risk for the company.”

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