x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

BlackBerry boss to make trip for Dubai tech conference

Jim Balsillie to make the first formal appearance by a RIM executive since the company's dispute with UAE telecoms authorities.

Jim Balsillie, the co-chief executive of the BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM), will attend this year's Gitex technology expo in Dubai in the first formal appearance by an RIM executive since the company's dispute with UAE telecommunications authorities.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) in August threatened to suspend BlackBerry services in the country for security, judicial and cultural reasons.

The row took on international proportions as other countries followed the UAE in demanding access to encrypted messages.

Last week, the TRA said it would not block BlackBerry services in the UAE after "the positive engagement and collaboration of RIM in reaching this regulatory compliant outcome".

Mr Balsillie will make a rare keynote address on Monday morning to address industry trends and introduce RIM's most recent BlackBerry model releases, the BlackBerry Torch and the PlayBook.

RIM said he would "share valuable insights on the mobile industry in the Middle East and provide an update on the latest BlackBerry product developments".

RIM representatives declined to provide further information on Mr Balsillie's visit.

Over the past two months, RIM has been negotiating with several countries over monitoring messages transmitted with the BlackBerry devices.

Saudi Arabia and India shelved plans to block BlackBerry services after discussions with RIM officials to obtain access to secure data sent using the device.

The details of how RIM complied with the UAE's regulatory demands have not been released.

"RIM cannot discuss the details of confidential regulatory matters that occur in specific countries but RIM confirms that it continues to approach lawful access matters internationally within the framework of [its] core principles," the company said last week.

There are about 500,000 BlackBerry users in the UAE, most of whom are Etisalat subscribers.

With the BlackBerry ban averted, Etisalat and du have announced plans to provide the BlackBerry Torch device to customers, starting at the Gitex expo this week.

Last month Mr Balsillie told analysts that sales in some Middle East markets had temporarily suffered because of the security concerns, but had since recovered.

RIM reported a record 12.1 million handsets shipped in its most recent quarter, above analysts expectations.

But its stock is down more than 16 per cent since August 1, when the UAE announced it planned to suspend BlackBerry services eight weeks later.

 

dgeorgecosh@thenational.ae