India hopes for resolution of BlackBerry issue

NEW DELHI Tue Sep 14, 2010 6:22am EDT

A man tries to hold on to his umbrella as he walks past a Blackberry advertisement billboard in Mumbai August 30, 2010. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

A man tries to hold on to his umbrella as he walks past a Blackberry advertisement billboard in Mumbai August 30, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India hopes its concerns about security issues related to BlackBerry services will be resolved, the telecoms minister said on Tuesday, giving the government access to electronic messages.

Governments in other countries, mostly in the Middle East, also fear consumers might use Research In Motion's BlackBerry services to aid terrorism or peddle pornography.

India had threatened to shut off RIM's encrypted email and instant messaging services unless it gained access to them.

After a deal with RIM, India began accessing earlier this month some of the traffic carried on BlackBerry smartphone devices in a campaign driven by fears that unmonitored email and messaging puts the country's security at risk.

"I do hope it will be resolved," Telecoms Minister Andimuthu Raja told reporters.

India's interior ministry said on August 30 RIM had offered several ways to allow authorities to monitor BlackBerry communications. The government said it would check their feasibility over the next 60 days.

"We are periodically reviewing," Raja said, without elaborating what solutions had been offered by RIM.

However, RIM has insisted it cannot decode the encrypted corporate email that is at the heart of its business and is yet to confirm India's claims that security agencies had started accessing BlackBerry traffic.

India is also pushing RIM to set up local servers in the country, while a top official has said notices were being sent to Google and Skype also asking them to set up servers in India and allow full monitoring of web data.

Separately, Raja said the Telecom Commission, the highest decision-making body in the telecoms ministry, would discuss "bailout" options for new telecoms operators, who are reportedly struggling with high operational costs and low tariffs in a crowded 15-player market.

Current Indian regulations do not allow telecoms firms to sell out within the first three years of their existence, which means the last batch of operators who secured licenses in 2008 have to wait until next year to sell out.

"In the last operators' meeting, it was highlighted bailout provisions may be done. It will be discussed in the Telecom Commission," Raja said, without elaborating.

(Editing by Ranjit Gangadharan)

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