Dec 4, 2008

Business - India;New BlackBerry handset wrapped in security web

NEW DELHI: Launch of a new touchscreen BlackBerry handset in India has been caught in a security web, although it is yet to be ascertained if the premium mobile service was used by terrorists to plan last week's attacks on Mumbai.

Much before the Mumbai attacks, the Wireless Planning Coordination wing of the Communications Ministry had asked for clearance from the security wing for allowing the launch of the handset given the doubts about the service being a risk to internal security.

The concerns were aired ahead of the proposed visit of a top team of the BlackBerry promoters to India for discussions with the Department of Telecom (DoT) on the long pending security issues.

A source in the know of the development, however, said that it is yet to be ascertained if BlackBerry equipment was used by the militants in Mumbai.

"It is understood that the BlackBerry equipment uses encrypted data for e-mail transmission through a gateway outside our country," the WPC wing of DoT said in an internal communication to the security wing.

The issue has arisen with respect to approval for a new device -- touchscreen BlackBerry Storm 9500 -- that the Canadian vendor of Blackberry RIM plans to launch in India.

WPC has referred the approval of Bluetooth certification for the BlackBerry Storm to the full ministry for clearance citing questions over its legality.

However, WPC said that if the equipment workswithin the limits of frequencies as per notification it has no reservation in granting approval to the equipment.

This is unusual as RIM has previously received approvals for Bluetooth certification without delay on two of its models launched earlier in the country, RIM said in a letter to DoT expressing concern over delays in granting approval.

Five mobile service providers -- Airtel, Vodafone, BPL, Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices -- are currently offering BlackBerry services in India.

BlackBerry services were introduced in India in October 2004. However, it came under the government's scanner last year when security agencies could not access the data stored in the BlackBerry network.

India had earlier asked Research in Motion (RIM), the licensor of BlackBerry, to route all its calls and e-mails through servers based in India to allow security agencies to intercept them as it fears the service could be misused by terror outfits.

This is because calls and e-mails exchanged within BlackBerry handsets cannot be intercepted as the servers are based outside India. WPC's move may delay launch of RIM's long-awaited touchscreen iPhone rival, BlackBerry Storm which was slated to hit the Indian market this year.

No comments: