Friday, July 4, 2008

No security threat from BlackBerry services

U-TURN : No security threat from BlackBerry services

Economic Times

3 Jul, 2008


NEW DELHI: In a complete about turn from its earlier stance, the department of telecom (DoT) on Wednesday said that there was no threat from BlackBerry services and the government had no objection if an operator wanted to offer these services.

This comes even as India’s security agencies have been insisting that the government force Canada’s RIM, the maker of BlackBerry smartphones, to put a system in place that will allow them to intercept data sent through these handsets as they fear that these services could be exploited by terrorists.

“There is no threat from BlackBerry services,” telecom secretary Siddharth Behura told reporters. When asked if the government would give approval to companies that have applied for starting Blackberry services, he said, “There is no permission needed for starting value-added services. We have not given permission to anybody, we have not disallowed anybody.”

Mr Behura’s statement assumes significance since it implies that the operators such as Tata Teleservices and state-owned telcos, BSNL and MTNL, too can launch BlackBerry services for their customers.

Mr Behura’s has contradicted DoT’s earlier stance that no new operator would be permitted to launch BlackBerry services until all security issues were resolved. Besides, late last year, the Tatas were unable to launch this service for their customers as DoT had failed to grant them the approval on security grounds.

When contacted, leading telecom operators refused to comment on Mr Behura’s statement. Currently, India has over 1,15,000 BlackBerry customers between five operators, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, BPL, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular.

The telecom secretary’s comments come just days after security agencies had sent a fresh communication to DoT, demanding the communications ministry ensure that data sent between BlackBerry users in India is not transferred outside the country.

Their demand stemmed from the fact that email communication between BlackBerry users here bypasses networks of Indian mobile operators providing this service.

“There should be a single point of delivery system for the entire BlackBerry traffic in India and the traffic originating and terminating in India should not travel outside,” security agencies had said in their latest note to the DoT.

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