Tata launches BlackBerry service in India

BANGALORE – Tata Teleservices, a mobile services company in India, launched BlackBerry mobile services in the country Thursday, after a long controversy over whether the service poses a security threat to the nation.

The launch comes even as Indian government agencies are still investigating the security issues arising from the BlackBerry service, according to informed sources.

In March, Tata Teleservices said that India’s Department of Telecommunications had refused it permission to offer BlackBerry services, citing security concerns.

Tata Teleservices’ competitors Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications already offer the service. Bharti Airtel launched a new model of the BlackBerry, called BlackBerry Bold, on Thursday.

The Indian government asked Research In Motion earlier this year to provide the country’s security agencies access to e-mails and other communications sent or received on BlackBerry devices, according to sources. The government was worried that terrorists were using BlackBerry devices to communicate with one another.

RIM said in May that it was unable to provide that access to the Indian government.

The BlackBerry security architecture for enterprise customers is specially designed to exclude the capability for RIM or any third party to read encrypted information under any circumstances, the company said.

An indication of the government’s unexpected change of stance on the Tata Teleservices issue came in July when the country’s Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura told reporters in Delhi that there was no threat from BlackBerry services. The country’s Telecom Minister A. Raja said in early June that the security issues over BlackBerry were likely to be resolved by the end of the month.

Behura also said that Tata Teleservices did not require permission from the government to offer the BlackBerry service, as it is a value-added service provided by operators.

Tata Teleservices subsequently firmed up plans to roll out the service. Tata Teleservices was not available for comment on the launch of the service on Thursday, although it issued a press release. A RIM spokesman said the company had talks with the government, but did not go into details over whether there had been a resolution to the issues.

The government may have allowed Tata Teleservices to go ahead and launch the service, having decided that it would later instruct Tata Teleservices and other operators offering the service, depending on the outcome of its continued negotiations with RIM, according to sources.

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