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Saudi telecoms test fix in tentative BlackBerry deal

Service continues - for now.

August 8, 2010 1:11 by

The Saudi telecom regulator told the kingdom’s telecom operators on Saturday to test a proposed fix to the perceived national security threat posed by certain services available on Research In Motion’s BlackBerry smartphones.

The regulator had threatened to cut off BlackBerry’s Messenger function to Saudi Arabian users on Friday, but so far has allowed the service to continue.

On Saturday, the Communications and Information Technology Commission said it gave the three telecom operators – state-controlled Saudi Telecom, Mobily and Zain Saudi Arabia – 48 hours to try out “the proposed solutions and fulfill the requested regulatory requirements.”

The regulator’s brief statement did not say what the solution was, but a source told Reuters on Friday that the makers of BlackBerry were looking into using servers in Saudi Arabia to address government concerns.

The Saudi Arabian government wants access to RIM’s encrypted network.

RIM has come under increasing scrutiny from governments, including India, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Algeria, over the potential threats its network could pose to security.

With about 700,000 BlackBerry users, Saudi Arabia is RIM’s biggest Middle East market.

Neighboring UAE, with 500,000 users, has proposed a ban starting Oct. 11 targeting email and Web browsing, as well as the Messenger service, on the device.

The U.S. and Canadian governments have expressed concern about the implications of banning such services.

(By Souhail Karam; Writing by Ann Saphir in Chicago; Editing by Eric Beech)

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