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SSTL to wind up BlackBerry services, says it's a cost-cutting exercise

Russian conglomerate Sistema's Indian arm Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL) has broken ranks with other telecom companies and decided to wind up its BlackBerry services in India.

Sanjay Singh        Last Updated: July 23, 2013  | 08:41 IST

Russian conglomerate Sistema's Indian arm Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL) has broken ranks with other telecom companies and decided to wind up its BlackBerry services in India. BlackBerry, which till a few years ago was considered a privileged service for Indian telecom companies, has been hit by the security controversy and fierce competition from increasingly popular Android-based smart-phones, which have flooded the market.

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  • SSTL has decided to wind up its BlackBerry services in the country
  • BlackBerry has been hit by the security controversy and fierce competition from increasingly popular Android-based smartphones
  • There are seven private telecom companies besides public sector giants BSNL and MTNL that provide BlackBerry services
  • MTNL too is in the process of setting up an interception system for BlackBerry serv-ices for security agencies
  • Other operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, RCom, Idea Cellular, TTSL, Aircel and Loop Telecom have already offered interception facilities to national security agencies
  • BlackBerry had set up a server in Mumbai to let law enforcement agencies access data on BBM
  • Law enforcement agencies will be able to track e-mails on a real-time basis over BlackBerry devices
There are seven private telecom companies besides public sector giants BSNL and MTNL that provide BlackBerry services. While the private companies have provided access to lawful interception of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) Services, BSNL is still negotiating with its US-based vendor Verint Systems over the quoted price of more than Rs  20 crore for setting up 21 interception machines.

A top BSNL official told Mail Today that the company will not pay such a huge sum. The official pointed out that there has been no significant increase in the number of BlackBerry users on its network and spending too much on such services cannot be justified. BSNL has over 35,000 BlackBerry users.

A Sitema official downplayed the issue saying if the company continues to offer Blackberry services, it would be forced to pay a licence fee and fixed charges for BlackBerry services. "It is purely a cost-cutting exer-cise and there is no security issue involved," he claimed.

Another BSNL official said that Canadian company's market share is already on the decline as smartphones have now taken over BlackBerry. But we have to meet the security requirements," he said.

MTNL too is in the process of setting up an interception system for BlackBerry services for security agencies.

However, other operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, RCom, Idea Cellular, TTSL, Aircel and Loop Telecom have already offered interception facilities to national security agencies.

BlackBerry had a market share
of about 15 per cent in the December quarter of 2011, when the smartphone base was around one million, according to research firm Convergence Catalyst.

A year later, BlackBerry's market share fell sharply to four per cent in the December quarter 2012 and continues to be at this level, according to research firm International Data Corp.

BlackBerry had set up a server in Mumbai to let law enforcement agencies access data on BBM and Black- Berry Internet Services after a prolonged dispute with the government.

With this interception facility, law enforcement agencies will be able to track e- mails on a real- time basis over BlackBerry devices.

Major telecom service providers, including Airtel and Tata Teleservices, were initially reluctant to fall in line but with Canada- based Blackberry agreeing to provide real- time interception of its services to security agencies, Indian companies were left with no option but to follow suit.

Courtesy: Mail Today 

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