x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Stores rejoice, customers grumble as ban threat lifts

Trade in popular Blackberry devices had suffered, but phone owners who had switched handsets and cancelled their accounts are disappointed at the 11th-hour deal with UAE telecom regulator.

ABU DHABI // Jeric Aquino had just heard that the BlackBerry ban would not be enforced on Monday and he could not stop grinning. The ban had hurt business at his mobile phone booth in Al Wahda Mall. 

"We used to sell 20 to 25 BlackBerrys a day before the ban was announced. After the TRA [Telecommunications Regulatory Authority] sent the memo saying that they would be banned, we only sold around one a day," he said.

Khaled al Ghuneem runs a small mobile shop on Defence Road and he had a similar story. "Before [the ban] I sold too many BlackBerrys, I did not even bother to keep count." 

He used to have 10 of the latest models and he also bought and sold used BlackBerrys. Now he only has two old BlackBerrys on display. "Now, I don't buy used," he said. He hopes sales of the device will revive now that the ban will not go into effect.

Sisters Rafia and Sheikha al Muhairi were sitting in Starbucks having coffee when they heard the news that the threatened ban would be avoided. 

"I'm happy, otherwise I would have had to get an iPhone," said Rafia. Sheikha said the BlackBerry message system was a major factor in her decision to buy the handset. 

"I like BlackBerry for the BBM," she said, referring to BlackBerry messaging, the proprietary SMS service whose secure nature sparked the stand-off between Research In Motion and the TRA.

Yacine Boumalik was alternating between his iPhone and his BlackBerry. "I have a friend who had two BlackBerrys. She sold them for half the price she paid because they were going to be banned," he said. "Can you imagine? She will be unhappy when she finds out, but it's too late for her." 

It was also too late for Nagi Salloum. The 30-year-old owner of loomni.com expressed frustration that the news broke on the weekend before the ban was to be enforced. "I cancelled my BlackBerry two days ago," he groaned. "Why did it take them so long to decide?"

A source close to the negotiations said implementing the changes to make BlackBerry compliant with UAE laws took time. "For Blackberry to be compliant with the UAE's telecommunications regulatory framework required a large number of parties to work together on what is a very complex issue." 

smclain@thenational.ae