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UAE to get latest BlackBerry despite ban

UAE to get latest BlackBerry despite banThe United Arab Emirates, first to decide to suspend BlackBerry services in the region, will also be first to receive the latest model of the smartphone, The National newspaper reported on Thursday.
A spokeswoman for makers Research In Motion (RIM), in the report, said the Torch version of the phone, due for release next week in the United States, will be available in the UAE from October -- the deadline set by the government to suspend key BlackBerry services in the country.
"It's business as usual for us," The National quoted the spokeswoman as saying. "This is the first time a major RIM device is being released in the region so shortly after it becomes available in the United States."
In a play to compete with Apple's hot-selling iPhone which is loaded with multimedia functions, the Torch model of the BlackBerry adds a touch screen, a new keyboard, a locations service and various applications.
The UAE announced on Sunday that the key BlackBerry services -- messenger, web browsing and email -- will be suspended from October 11 because they "allow individuals to commit violations" that the country can not monitor.
The International Data Corporation (IDC) research group said on Thursday that "fulfilling the regulator's requests (for monitoring) would jeopardise (RIM's) security commitments," while "declining the requests could potentially result in RIM losing access to many markets."
IDC said it would be difficult for the UAE's two major telecom companies, Etisalat and Du, to put "in place an alternative mobility solution in the two months to October that could cater to the immediate needs of their subscribers."
It added that "both operators will incur financial losses from the suspension."
In Saudi Arabia, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) announced earlier this week that it has ordered the kingdom's three mobile phone providers to block BlackBerry Messenger from Friday for failing to conform with regulations.
But "there are big hopes in convincing" RIM "to provide Saudi Arabia with a local server," an official from one of the kingdom's three telecom companies said on Wednesday.
A spokesman from Bahraini mobile provider Batelco, Ahmed al-Janahi, told AFP his company has already come up with alternative plans in case Bahrain decides to join the ban on BlackBerry services.
Also in the Gulf, a spokesman for Kuwait's VIVA Telecom, Omar al-Huti, said on Thursday his company has not received any instructions to block services.
"Until now we were not given any orders on new means of dealing with BlackBerry, and the company will not block any of those devices' services," Huti said.
While the iPhone's popularity has soared because of its games, social networking, video watching and applications, BlackBerry has until now remained a favourite for business people craving secure wireless communications.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2010

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