Research In Motion (RIM) could launch its new BlackBerry 10 devices in the United Arab Emirates without its BlackBerry Messenger Voice service, following ongoing talks with telecom operators in the area.
BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) Voice was added to the company’s popular instant messaging service, BBM, last month to allow users to call one another over an Internet connection.
As with the original service, BBM Voice has proven popular with users who have large or unlimited data allowances on their contract, but want to cut down on their text messages or traditional calls.
A report by the Wall Street Journal explains that the service has become “a sticking point” for RIM and telecom operators Du Telecom, based in Dubai, and Etisalat Telecommunications Corp, based in Abu Dhabi. The latter believe that allowing such a service to launch in the United Arab Emirates will impact their traditional revenue streams – most likely their income from pay-as-you-go customers, who will be looking to avoid the incremental costs associated with text messages and voice calls.
With the commercial launch of BlackBerry 10 fast approaching, RIM has been lobbying the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority to try to broker some kind of trade-off. One solution could be for both Etisalat Telecommunications and Du Telecom to sign up to separate commercial agreements, which would allow them to provide the service at an extra cost for its customers.
That would certainly make the operators happy – although it’s safe to say the value of BBM Voice would be all but depleted as a result.
One senior official at the TRA told the Wall Street Journal that a resolution was likely to occur before the BlackBerry 10 launch event later today. “We would not want the UAE to be seen as a restrictive case,” he said.
BBM, now in its seventh incarnation, still has a strong following around the world. BBM Voice is only available over a Wi-Fi connection at the moment though, which has likely curbed its uptake for users who are regularly on a 3G connection. However, when RIM launches BlackBerry 10 to the public, it will want all of its features, apps and all, to be functioning properly in order to avoid any public backlash.
“We continue to work closely with our partners in the United Arab Emirates to bring BlackBerry services to our customers,” RIM said in a statement.
“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.”
It’s worth noting that following similar negotiations over BBM in 2010, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority managed to lift a proposed ban on the service in the United Arab Emirates.
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