India sees no security threat from BlackBerry

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s telecoms ministry does not see any security risk from Research In Motion’s popular BlackBerry e-mail service and has no plans to shut the service, a top government official said on Wednesday.

A Research in Motion Blackberry is shown in Toronto October 26, 2007. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Indian security agencies have said the BlackBerry e-mail device could be used by militants to send e-mails that could not be traced or intercepted, and the government wanted RIM to install servers in India to help monitor traffic.

“There is no threat from BlackBerry services,” Telecoms Secretary Siddhartha Behura told reporters at an industry summit, adding operators did not need the ministry’s approval to offer such services.

“Anybody can start services, that is between the operators and RIM to decide as to start or not,” Behura said.

In March, Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Ltd said its application to launch BlackBerry services was rejected by the government because of the security worries. Telecoms operators, RIM and the government have since been in talks to resolve the issue.

When asked if the government had any plan to stop the services in the country, Behura said: “Not to my knowledge.”

“It’s just ... going to mean business as usual,” said Nick Agostino, an analyst at Research Capital in Toronto. “If anything, it just confirms that the Indian market is now free and open for them and that one hurdle has been removed.”

For RIM, India “is going to be a nice opportunity, but it’s a long-term opportunity,” he said.

RIM’s development of a significant footprint in India will also likely trail behind the Waterloo, Ontario-based company’s progress in China, he added.

The company’s volatile shares rose C$3.99 to 123.68 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday following Tuesday’s Canada Day holiday. On the Nasdaq, they fell $1.50 to $121.77.

A spokesman for RIM in India could not immediately offer a response, but Indian mobile operators welcomed the secretary’s comments.

“We heartily welcome this statement. It is in line with the real facts,” said T.V. Ramachandran, director general of industry body Cellular Operators Association of India.

Canada-based RIM has 114,000 BlackBerry subscribers in India, the junior telecoms minister had said in May. The company does not release country-specific subscribers numbers.

India’s three leading mobile firms, Bharti Airtel Ltd, Reliance Communications Ltd and Vodafone-controlled Vodafone Essar Ltd, and smaller firm BPL Mobile provide the BlackBerry service in India.

Other firms such as Tata Teleservices and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited plan to offer the service to customers.

Additional reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski in Toronto; Editing by Peter Galloway