RIM in talks with UAE telcos to enable BlackBerry voice feature

30 Jan 2013

Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian handset manufacturer behind the BlackBerry solution, is attempting to persuade telecoms operators Etisalat and Du to provide its ‘BlackBerry Messenger Voice’ service to consumers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Wall Street Journal reports that BlackBerry Messenger Voice, a service that allows free phone calls over Wi-Fi, has become a sticking point for RIM and the two UAE telcos, as they try to mitigate the negative effect on traditional revenue streams from free messaging and voice applications. The voice feature became available to download across the world in December, but RIM has been in negotiations with Etisalat and Du to offer the service since then. The Canadian firm has been lobbying the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), which says it would encourage Etisalat and Du to sign up to commercial agreements with RIM to provide the voice service at an extra cost for customers and gain additional revenue. ‘We would not want the UAE to be seen as a restrictive case,’ said a senior official at the regulator who believes that a resolution ahead of the upcoming launch of the BlackBerry 10 is unlikely. The report also cites a statement from RIM as saying that the firm continues to work closely with its UAE partners to bring BlackBerry services to customers. ‘We undertake rigorous due diligence with all BlackBerry product and service launches to guarantee the functionality, features and rich user experience that our customers have come to expect, while ensuring that they comply with the regulatory framework of the countries within which we operate,’ the statement added.

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that an earlier agreement between RIM and the TRA saw the regulator abandon a plan to suspend BlackBerry’s Messenger, e-mail and web-browsing services in October 2010. Two months earlier, the TRA said it would ban the services for security reasons, after ongoing attempts to bring them in line with the country’s telecoms regulations had failed. However, in the days leading up to the introduction of the ban, the TRA confirmed that it no longer planned to suspend the services, stating that the solution was ‘now compliant with the UAE’s telecommunications regulatory framework,’ after an undisclosed deal between the two parties was reached.