BlackBerry Users Worldwide Suffer Major Outage


RIM’s BlackBerry data services are down across EMEA, as the company announces a new acquisition

BlackBerry owners across the UK and Ireland have been suffering from a major data outage, with some sources reporting that the problem is affecting customers throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

“Some users in EMEA are experiencing issues. We’re investigating, and we apologize for any inconvenience,” tweeted BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) at around 3pm BST today.

The outage began for some customers at around 11am this morning, with Vodafone UK customer services claiming that the outage had  affected 80 percent of UK BlackBerry users on all mobile networks. T-Mobile UK support also tweeted that there was “an issue with Blackberry services”.

No technical details about the outage have yet been announced. However, the Telegraph reports that all of RIM’s BlackBerry online services are provided via a single data centre in Slough.

Complaints pour in

Many BlackBerry users were particularly annoyed at being cut off from BBM, RIM’s free instant messaging service, taking to Twitter to complain about the outage.

“So I have no email, Twitter or BBM on my BlackBerry,” said Amanda from Twickenham. “I may as well cut one of my arms off too *angry face*.”

“I am close to melting My Blackberry down and using the remains to make a tribute to Steve Jobs,” said former Hollyoaks actor James Sutton. “Poetic irony at its most heartfelt.”

The news comes as RIM announces plans to buy Irish mobile software maker NewBay. While terms of the deal have not been disclosed, Reuters reports it is worth $100 million (£63.9m).

NewBay provides a “white label” platform called LifeCache, which powers cloud-based services for digital content across mobile, PC, tablet and TV devices. The platform has more than 80 million subscribers, and claims AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA and Deutsche Telekom among its customers.

A history of outages

This is not the first time that BlackBerry users have been prevented from using data services due to an outage. In April 2009, hundreds of thousands of customers in Europe reportedly had their mobile email interrupted due to problems with RIM’s own SRP (server relay protocol) network.

This was followed by BlackBerry users in North America suffering two major service failures in a week in December 2009. The second lasted more than eight hours and reportedly affected 100 percent of RIM’s customers in North America.

Last month, RIM’s financial results revealed that weak sales have resulted in a sharp drop in income. Pre-tax income fell a massive 54 percent to $414 million (£262m) from $904 million (£572m) compared to the previous quarter, and revenues dropped to $4.2 billion (£2.7bn), only just achieving the bottom end of the company’s targets.

It is widely thought that failure to meet these targets will mean curtains for RIM’s under-fire management team and analysts quickly called the forecasts for Q3 into doubt.

“This report is another nail in the coffin of management,” Edward Snyder at Charter Equity Research told the Guardian at the time. “I don’t think anybody believes their guidance. Management’s credibility is at an all-time low. We’re well past the point [where] these guys should be replaced.”

Despite the bad press, however, RIM has recently unveiled an updated line of BlackBerry smartphones running BlackBerry 7 OS, the company’s latest update of its longtime operating system.

One of those new devices, the BlackBerry Torch 9850, (9860 for CDMA users mainly in the US) tries to take RIM’s competitors at their own hardware game, by embracing a touch screen-only design. Read eWEEK’s review here.

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