No Blackberry Services for Foreign Missions: PTA Says Service Continues

PTA has instructed cellular operators to stop BlackBerry services to foreign missions in the country amid concern about the security of the communications, reported Reuters and independently verified by ProPakistani through industry sources.

Industry sources confirmed ProPakistani that cellular companies received letters from PTA in January 2011 for the suspension of Blackberry services to foreign missions.

A source in one of cellular company, requesting anonymity, told ProPakistani that PTA had sent a similar directive some 10 months ago to all cellular companies. This recent letter (in fact 2 letters are sent in January 2010) are to make sure that no cellular company is providing the services to foreign missions.

A highly placed source at PTA communicated ProPakistani that no cellular company can provide Blackberry services to foreign missions and in-bound roamers in first place, so any instruction for suspension of service is supposedly the re-enforcement practice.

Source confirmed that a clause for this is in place when cellular company obtain the clearance certificate before providing blackberry services in the country.

Industry sources revealed that despite the year ago directive, cellular companies were providing blackberry services to foreign embassies and high commission staff.

PTA spokesperson was not available for the comment.

Update:

We just received following response from PTA

In response to a story carried in a section of media, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has clarified that PTA has not issued any directions to mobile service providers to discontinue Blackberry Services to any users.

Operators have been advised to continue providing Blackberry Services to the users .

In an update, Reuters opines that decision has been reversed by the Government of Pakistan.

Earlier on Monday, Pakistan called on mobile phone operators to stop BlackBerry services to foreign missions amid concern about the security of the communications, industry sources said. But the instruction was later reversed.

“Now they have again asked the operators to continue providing BlackBerry services to the foreign missions,” an industry source told Reuters, who declined to be identified.

A spokesman at the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Khurram Ali Mehran, confirmed that the services continued. “The blackberry services are on for the foreign missions,” he said.
It was not immediately clear why the Pakistani government retracted the earlier decision to restrict the services.

Earlier Reuter had reported:

Pakistani industry and government officials say that the government had never allowed BlackBerry services to foreign missions and inbound roamers when the services were launched in Pakistan in 2005.

The government also initially banned the more secure BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) services in Pakistan.

BES allows users to send and receive secure email and messages, which is difficult for governments to intercept and read.

However, the instructions have since been flouted by all five Pakistani mobile operators. It was not clear why the government allowed them to do so or why it was acting now to enforce the restrictions.

An industry source said that the government had asked all operators in the country to enforce the restrictions.

“The most critical issue is the provision of BlackBerry services to the foreign embassies, missions and high commissions,” said the source.

“Therefore, all the operators have agreed to close all BlackBerry connections provided to them by January 31,” he said, adding discussions would be held with the PTA to gain more time on the provision of BES to local customers as well as BlackBerry services to incoming roamers.

If fully enforced, the restrictions would mean no BlackBerry services for many of the multinational companies and aid groups, who use the BES service rather than the Blackberry Internet Service, or BIS, which is much less secure.

Tech reporter with over 10 years of experience, founder of ProPakistani.PK