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India Seeks Permanent BlackBerry Solution From RIM, Pillai Says

India Seeks Permanent BlackBerry Solution From RIM
RIM last month avoided a ban in the world’s second-largest mobile-phone market after offering the government a temporary solution to allow monitoring of BlackBerry data. Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg

India, seeking access to BlackBerry smartphone messages, expects Research In Motion Ltd. to offer a permanent solution within three to four months to defuse its standoff with the government, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said.

“We want real-time access, I mean, when we want to,” Pillai said in an interview in New Delhi yesterday. “They are working to a permanent solution in three to four months.”

RIM last month avoided a ban in the world’s second-largest mobile-phone market after offering the government a temporary solution to allow monitoring of BlackBerry data. India, concerned that terrorists may take advantage of the encryption in smartphones, has stepped up its scrutiny over the telecommunications industry since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that left 166 dead.

Satchit Gayakwad, a spokesman for RIM in Mumbai, declined to comment.

India’s dispute with the Canadian company resumed this year after RIM upgraded BlackBerry encryption, making it difficult for Indian authorities to access data, said Pillai.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also threatened to shut off BlackBerry services unless RIM opened its encrypted client data for the sake of national security.

Google Inc. and Skype Technologies SA, a provider of Internet telephony services, will also need to set up servers in India and enable security agencies to monitor mail traffic, Pillai said this month. Nokia Oyj, the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones, said last month it would set up local servers by Nov. 5 to allow authorities to monitor push-mail services.

Security Needs

In the U.S., the Federal Bureau of Investigation can monitor the mobile e-mail of particular people with authority from a judge, as they do in wiretapping phone calls, according to Roger Entner, an analyst at IAG Research Inc. Officials would go to a company for access to an employee’s messages or to an online service provider for non-corporate e-mail.

The company maintains a “consistent global standard” for lawful access to its messaging system that “does not include special deals for specific countries,” RIM said last month.

India’s market for wireless network-equipment has also come under government scrutiny because of security concerns. The government this year blocked Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. from selling equipment to domestic phone carriers.

Amendments to Indian phone-license rules, released in July, require equipment vendors to allow authorities to inspect their hardware and software design documents for security threats and malware. Mobile phone companies would face a penalty equivalent to the value of their equipment contracts if inspectors find security breaches, according to the regulations.

Network Equipment

While Chinese equipment makers have complied with the rules, the government is in talks with European producers, Pillai said. Ericsson AB and Nokia Siemens Networks, the world’s two largest wireless network-equipment makers, are the top vendors in India’s $9.2 billion phone-network market, with shares of about 23 percent each, according to the latest annual survey by trade publication Voice & Data. Huawei has a 17.6 percent market share and ZTE has 13.7 percent, according to the survey.

Ericsson and Nokia Siemens said in statements the companies welcome having dialogue with the Indian government.

“We have some problems, we are in discussions with them,” Pillai said when asked of Ericsson and Nokia Siemens. “At the moment they don’t have any problems, all their equipment can be imported into India.”

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