RIM Faces Indian Crisis Over Email Demands

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RIM is headed for a showdown as India sticks to its demand for full access to corporate emails

Research In Motion’s (RIM) hopes of a compromise deal with India look to have been dashed after the country reiterated its hreats against BlackBerry services if it is denied access to corporate emails from tomorrow (1 February).

RIM had initially asked for 18-24 months to find a solution to its deadlock with the Indian authorities after the country had given RIM until 31 January to find a way to allow the Indian government access to its BlackBerry corporate email services.

Failure to do so, it warned, would result in a ban on RIM’s phone services in India. RIM had previously said it was confident India would not ban its services.

Indian Showdown

In an effort to appease the government, RIM earlier this month offered access to the scrambled BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service, but said it cannot grant similar concessions for the encrypted BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) email service.

“RIM has now delivered a solution that enables India’s wireless carriers to address their lawful access requirements for our consumer messaging services, which include BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) email,” RIM told eWEEK Europe UK in an earlier emailed statement.

RIM added that that the solution had been delivered well before the mutually agreed deadline of 31 January.

“RIM reaffirms that any suggestion that it is enabling, or planning to enable in any time frame, access to data transmitted through BlackBerry Enterprise Server is both false and technologically infeasible,” said the BlackBerry maker.

It explained that the architecture of the BES network is so secure that even RIM itself has no access to what has been transmitted. This is the main reason that companies have embraced the system as a secure business system. If the Indian authorities were allowed access, the whole system would be compromised and this would lay waste to the BlackBerry promise of a watertight system.

Indian Demands

“We also wish to underscore, once again that this enablement of lawful access does not extend to BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which is essentially an enterprise VPN solution,” RIM said. “RIM cannot access information encrypted through BES given that neither RIM nor the wireless operators are ever in possession of the encryption keys.

But this has not deterred India, after rejected on Monday RIM’s offer to allow it only partial access to its BlackBerry data services.

“We will insist they give us a solution for (the) enterprise service too,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram was quoted as telling reporters on Monday by the Wall Street Journal.

Chidambaram said the home ministry and the communications ministry will together decide on a further course of action later in the day.

Pakistan Approval

Meanwhile in a welcome bit of news for RIM, Pakistan has reportedly reversed its earlier decision to restrict the smartphone’s services in that country.

According to Reuters, Pakistan had asked mobile phone operators to stop BlackBerry services to foreign missions amid concern about the security of the communications, industry sources said.

But the instruction was later reversed.

“Now they have again asked the operators to continue providing BlackBerry services to the foreign missions,” an industry source told Reuters, who declined to be identified.

A spokesman at the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Khurram Ali Mehran, confirmed that the services continued. “The blackberry services are on for the foreign missions,” he said.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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