UAE telecoms regulator issues new restrictions on BlackBerry
Small businesses will no longer have access to the most secure BlackBerry services under a ruling by the UAE's telecommunications regulator.
Only businesses with 20 or more mobile subscriptions will be allowed to use high-security accounts, preventing individuals from using the most private data services offered by BlackBerry.
Companies with fewer than 20 mobile subscriptions will have their BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) accounts terminated at the end of the month, according to an e-mail sent to customers by the telecoms provider Etisalat.
BES accounts allow BlackBerry handsets to connect with private servers hosted by individual corporations. They include highly secure e-mail and other services.
From May 1, businesses with fewer than 20 corporate subscriptions will be entitled to use only the BlackBerry Internet Service, which does not rely on private servers. Businesses with fewer than 20 BlackBerry subscribers will still be able to use encrypted messaging services under BlackBerry Internet Service.
"Enterprise [Server] services are to be made available to qualifying organisations only and not to private individuals," the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said.
"Qualifying organisations must have a valid UAE trade licence and a minimum of 20 or more Enterprise accounts under the company ownership."
The TRA confirmed it had "given Etisalat and du instructions regarding the provision of BlackBerry Enterprise Services".
BlackBerry declined to comment.
The TRA's move follows last year's threatened ban of BlackBerry services in the UAE.
Authorities said last summer all BlackBerry messaging and e-mail services would be suspended due to national security concerns. But a ban was averted after "collaboration" between the TRA and Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian maker of BlackBerry handsets.
Etisalat has already informed customers about the change in regulations over BlackBerry use. Its rival du said it had also "adhered to the required mandate".
Etisalat said in its e-mail to customerscompanies with fewer than 20 connections could either cease using the BES service, or purchase additional subscriptions.
But one small-business manager said that optionwas not viable.
David Mackenzie, the managing director of the recruitment consultancy Mackenzie Jones, said the new TRA guidelines would be disruptive to business.
The company has three BlackBerry accounts registered in the UAE, and buying an additional 17 lines would not be feasible, Mr Mackenzie said.
"We physically couldn't do it," he said. "It would cost Dh3,780 [US$1,029) a month just in BlackBerry fees. That's Dh45,000 a year, compared to Dh6,800 now. "We're now seriously looking at the iPhone as a replacement."
Mr Mackenzie said the additional services offered on the BES subscription were invaluable to small and medium-sized enterprises such as his.
"[The new rules will] stop us being as efficient as we are now … you can't use any of your meeting notes or calendar," he said.
"The UAE is trying to develop the SME market but it curtails us by treating us as individuals rather than as businesses. It's suddenly putting a very unusual ruling that doesn't help small businesses in any way."
Updated: April 15, 2011 04:00 AM