BlackBerry rings up fourth disrupted day
MILLIONS of BlackBerry customers across four continents were again without email, messaging and browsing service on their smartphones after a series of failures in Research In Motion's private network.
Extensive delays hit Ireland, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India on Monday and the problems spread to Brazil, Chile and Argentina yesterday in the latest headache for the Canadian smartphone maker Research in Motion (RIM).
"The current situation with the BlackBerry outages couldn't come at a worse time for RIM," Informa Telecoms & Media analyst Malik Saadi said.
"Some businesses may see this as a good reason to re-evaluate their reliance on centralised servers and instead look to investing in more corporately controlled servers."
RIM's BlackBerry service has long been prized by executives and politicians who rely on its security and reliability to deliver email and other messaging to mobile workers.
"It's like being disconnected from the world because people have gotten so addicted to BlackBerry services," said Nilesh Dedhia, managing director of India-based Vidhi Wealth Management.
A spokeswoman for RIM in London declined to comment on where the network failure is located.
Data services were disrupted yesterday and the previous day. RIM, which has built a reputation as a maker of secure and reliable email devices, is struggling to stem declines in market share to touchscreen phones such as Apple's iPhone that offer more consumer applications.
RIM, based in Ontario in Canada, routes its traffic through two main centres, in Waterloo, Ontario, for North America and in Slough, southern England, for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said Nick Dillon, an analyst at research firm Ovum in London.
That network concentration "has always been a risk to the service", Dillon said. BlackBerry "is still the most robust email system".
The delays were caused by a core switch failure within RIM's infrastructure, the company said in a separate email. While the system is designed to transfer to a backup switch, that didn't happen, it said. The result was a large backlog of data.
Services were also disrupted in Brazil, Chile and Argentina on Tuesday. With subscribers in those countries affected, the failure is likely to stem from the company's main infrastructure in Canada, said Mr Saadi. The core switch routes the traffic to specific locations, he said.
"They cannot afford to have the problem for one more day, because the data backlog will just be massive," Mr Saadi said. "It's really a race against the clock."
RIM shares have lost more than half of their value this year amid market-share losses to Apple and Google.
RIM has suffered outages before. Its BlackBerry Messenger service went offline in Canada and Latin America last month and a massive disruption hit North American customers in April 2007, but the disruptions are usually contained within one continent or region.
In its latest update, RIM did not say when it expected the outage to be fully resolved or how many customers had been affected. (Reuters and Bloomberg)