Meet begins for decision on BlackBerry ban

NEW DELHI Mon Aug 30, 2010 5:32pm IST

BlackBerry handset boxes are displayed for sale at a mobile phone shop in Kochi August 26, 2010.REUTERS/Stringer

BlackBerry handset boxes are displayed for sale at a mobile phone shop in Kochi August 26, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian officials began a meeting on Monday to decide whether to ban some of Research In Motion'sRIM.TO BlackBerry services, a day before the deadline runs out for the firm to give security agencies access to its secure data.

Government sources have said the Aug. 31 deadline could be extended if Research In MotionRIMM.O says it has a solution to allow monitoring of emails and asks for more time to avoid disruption of its services in the world's fastest-growing mobile phone market.

Monday's meeting by Indian security and interior ministry officials is considering a technical report prepared after two days of talks last week between RIM officials and Indian security agencies. The report, sources said, contains some suggestions on how a secure email on BlackBerry may be accessed.

"A final decision will be taken after considering all aspects and national security interests," a source in the interior ministry told Reuters. The outcome of the meeting may not be announced on Monday. The sources asked not to be identified because they were not authorised to talk to the media.

India says it wants the means to fully track and read BlackBerry's secure email and instant messaging services that officials fear could be misused by militants.

(For Slideshow: Evolution of the BlackBerry, click here)

For a graphic, click:

India could become the first country to ban the services, even though several governments have raised concerns about the popular device over activities from terrorism to peddling pornography.

RIM's rivals Apple Inc and Nokia could be among the biggest gainers if India blocks BlackBerry services. Nokia said on Monday it will host an email server in India from Nov. 5.

Saudi Arabia, fretful over online services such as pornography, has reached a deal with RIM on the messenger service, a consumer product outside of the secure corporate domain. India too has reached a deal until November on the messenger service, according to government sources.

Such concerns have also been raised by Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, with the latter giving RIM an Oct. 11 deadline.

Analysts see no easy fix to the standoff as RIM says it has no way of intercepting the data that countries want access to. RIM has denied media reports that say it provided unique wireless services or access to any one country.

A shutdown would affect about 1 million users in India out of a total 41 million BlackBerry users worldwide, allowing them to use the devices only for calls and Internet browsing.

(Writing by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Alex Richardson)

(For more business news visit Reuters India)

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