BBC World Service

Saudi Arabia prepared to shut down Blackberry service

Ben Thompson Aug 9, 2010
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BBC World Service

Saudi Arabia prepared to shut down Blackberry service

Ben Thompson Aug 9, 2010
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TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: Time is running out for Blackberry in Saudi Arabia. Authorities there have given the phone’s makers until today to reach a deal, and if they don’t, it could mean another shutdown of services. The BBC’s Ben Thompson sent this report from Dubai.


Ben Thompson: Reports over the weekend suggest Blackberry maker Research In Motion has now agreed to some of Saudi’s demands. Most crucially the installation of a server within the country. Saudi Arabia says that’s a deal Blackberry has already granted to other foreign governments, including the United States.

But on Friday, Saudi Arabia blocked access to e-mails, messaging and Web surfing. The services were later restored, but for users in Saudi Arabia, that uncertainty makes doing business difficult. John Sfakianakis is a chief economist at Banque Saudi Fransi:

John Sfakianakis: If my business doesn’t find a suitable alternative, either I have to come into the office or login from home. That means that when I’m travelling I cannot use a Blackberry to communicate, and so that is a big inconvenience.

Other governments in the region will now be expecting the same deal. And for users across the Middle East, it raises even more worries about the access governments could soon have to their private messages.

In Dubai, I’m the BBC’s Ben Thompson for Marketplace.

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