RIM could see its services blocked in its second market
Indonesian regulator says BlackBerry maker must comply with four demands, including allowing government access to email
Published: 13 December, 2011
As RIM's troubles mount, its difficulties with various nations' security agencies have reared their head again. The BlackBerry maker has been in complex negotiations to keep its email and messaging systems alive in India and other major emerging markets, and now Indonesia, the vendor's second biggest market, is reported to be threatening to block BlackBerry services.
The country's regulator said it would block internet services to BlackBerry devices if RIM did not agree to its demands on government access to messages and other topics. It said RIM had agreed, early this year, to four key requests made by the communications ministry, and if it did not implement these actions, services could be cut off. "RIM is supposed to have a licence to provide internet services, and the government will only grant them one when they have fulfilled all four requests," the head of the regulator, the Indonesian Telecom Regulatory Board (BRTI), told the AFP news agency. "If they don't, we'll have to cut their data services."
The four requests are that RIM set up an aggregator to reduce costs for local service providers; establish customer care centers; block pornography; and enable the government to access encrypted messages on users' phones in the interests of national security. The regulator says the first of these demands is the one where RIM is failing to step up, though in other territories, the controversial issue of state access to emails has been the main sticking point. RIM has argued that only the customers themselves have the keys to unlock their communications, but is understood to have come to compromises with various governments.
The BRTI said it was concerned by the state of play on government access to encrypted data. "RIM told us they were working with law enforcement agencies to ensure they can access the information, but they could not tell us who exactly they were working with," said BRTI Commissioner Heru Sutadi, speaking to the Jakarta Post. "Because RIM has not been cooperative, it is possible that we will soon end BIS (BlackBerry Internet Service) and BBM service. BlackBerr, therefore, would just be like other cellular phones. With the condition as it is now, we warn that the country's users to be cautious about using BlackBerry because the data exchanged is not safe or cannot be guaranteed of its safety."
RIM hit back on some of the points, saying in a statement that it had addressed all the requests in Indonesia and was looking at new multimillion dollar investments in the world's third most populous country. As it comes under rising pressure in its key north American markets, growth in emerging markets is critical. It said it had set up a router in Singapore to which some Indonesian carriers have connected, and that this would meet the need for an aggregator, since the government had only stipulated a regional, not a national, facility.
Indonesia is RIM's biggest market outside north America, with shipments of BlackBerry smartphones expected to surpass nine million units this year.