BlackBerry service to be monitored in Saudi Arabia

The country’s regulator said an agreement has been reached with Research In Motion

BlackBerry data services can continue in Saudi Arabia after Research in Motion agreed to monitoring of e-mail and instant messaging data services, an official of the country's regulator, Communications and Information Technology Commission, (CITC) said on Tuesday.

RIM has agreed to place some of its communication servers in the country, said the official on condition of anonymity.

In a statement, CITC said it had decided to allow BlackBerry Messenger, RIM's instant messaging service, as part of the regulatory requirements had been met. Other regulatory requirements have not been met by operators, but CITC's statement did not specifically say which ones.

Etihad Etisalat, which uses the brand name Mobily, Saudi Telecom Company (STC), and Zain Saudi Arabia are the three operators in the country that offer BlackBerry services.

A RIM spokesman based in India said the company did not have a comment on the Saudi Arabia arrangement.

The CITC said last week that it would suspend BlackBerry services in the country on Friday, as it violated regulations. It subsequently provided an extension to operators until end of Monday to test out the solutions they were working on with RIM. The deadline passed without a cut in service, according to reports.

In his daily press briefing on Monday, Philip J. Crowley, assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of State, said that there had been a report of "at least an agreement between RIM and Saudi Arabia".

The U.S. Department of State said last week that it is in touch with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other governments to better understand their concerns and plans on the BlackBerry service. The UAE also said last week that it would suspend BlackBerry services from Oct. 11 unless RIM located servers in the country that can be monitored.

An agreement between RIM and Saudi Arabia is likely to have ramifications in other countries that are analyzing RIM's service, including India, Indonesia and Lebanon, which want to monitor BlackBerry communications, said Matthew Reed, an analyst with Informa Telecoms & Media.

Imad Hoballah, acting chairman and CEO of Lebanon's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said last week his agency is analyzing encrypted data sources to find ways that security agencies can get access to data when needed.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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