It may well be the end of the road for BlackBerry Services for MTNL in the country, if a system to legally intercept them is not installed by the end of this month. The Department of Telecommunications has reportedly asked state-run operator MTNL to see to it that such a system is put in place, else the services will face a shut down from March 1.
Reports have emerged that the DoT informed MTNL Chairman-cum-Managing Director A K Garg that if BlackBerry did not agree to the department's norms, it will have to face a shut down.
In November last year, the department had asked all telecom operators to install a mechanism that would enable it to legally intercept BlackBerry Services. They were given time till end of December 2012 to do so, failure of which would cause the services to shut down. Despite the telcos seeking additional time, DoT stood its ground. Then in December last year, major telcos in the country, including Bharti Airtel and Tata, agreed to put in place systems to legally intercept BlackBerry Services. The telcos installed the software for providing real-time interception of all facilities to the security agencies.
Have to meet DoT's norms, or face a shutdown (Image credit: Getty Images)
Vodafone and Tata reportedly were among the first telcos to comply with the DoT and were followed by Airtel, which affirmed with the body it was ready for testing the equipment.
A letter that the DoT had written to MTNL reads thus: “It is understood that MTNL is yet not ready with the proposed deployment of BlackBerry interception solution. It is, therefore, requested that the Blackberry interception solution may kindly be deployed on or before February 28 otherwise DoT may be constrained to asked to restrain the services offered by MTNL.”
BlackBerry had previously been in talks with the DoT over the interception of communication exchanged using BlackBerry Services, which are encrypted. RIM was asked to provide resolution and web-browsing requirements pertaining to BlackBerry Internet Services, in consultation with telcos and their interception vendors. Subsequently, the company agreed to install its server in Mumbai.
The DoT stated that despite detailed discussions with RIM, the telcos had not deployed the interception solution. A note issued by the government body added “…therefore, we may ask all the TSPs to comply with the Blackberry Interception requirement by December 31, 2012.” It also mentioned that all telcos barring MTNL had responded.
Blackberry met the requirements of the probe agencies after its services were red-flagged for security issues, as it was found that the content found on interception was encrypted and not in a readable format.
The company had earlier reiterated that it could not provide access to its enterprise email and messaging services as it did not possess the encryption keys for it, which are in the control of its corporate clients. Security agencies in the country found it difficult to monitor the brand's popular messaging service, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), owing to its encrypted nature. For over three years, the security agencies in the country have been trying to get the company to install local servers so they could access and monitor the stream of messages going back and forth to implement better security in the country.