Oh No….Blackberry Ban In India?

29 Comments

Put this in the dumb-things-dumb-government-officials-do category! Apparently India’s Department of Telecommunications has rejected Tata Teleservices’ application to offer RIM’s BlackBerry on their network. DoT’s dumb excuse:
“BlackBerry service does not allow for ‘lawful interception’ mandated for all Value Added Services (VAS).” In other words, they are bringing up the national security bogeyman! Current BlackBerry service providers have been contacted by DoT as well. The question is, what will DoT do with overseas visitors who show up with their BlackBerrys?

29 Comments

sunny

indian govt. did the right thing.because nothing come between our national security one email can do a lot more than our thinking…

Arunabh Das

I can’t believe you asked a question like that Om. Clearly, if someone turns on 3G / 2G / Edge on their blackberry in India, it will not connect to the APN. Tata Teleservices is the carrier in this case and it won’t be permitted to do a handshake with a device that is not compliant with DoT’s regulations. Duh!! – Arunabh Das

Anand Sharma

@Tech Trends

IMHO, the officials at MHA are not over-zealous but are following the “better safe than sorry” approach. This is because, as we all are aware, India is the worst affected country by terrorism after Iraq.

Jose Miguel Cansado

Lawful interception is going to be a tough issue to enforce in the Internet world. How do you control all emails services when https is used by most webmails? and how will they tap all VoIP services available, like Skype?

Tech Trends

It’s strange. How is Blackberry affecting the internal security of just India? Rest of the world seems to have no problem with the device…

There is an old saying… ” It only happens in India! “

Sampath

fine fine..Its easy gng on and on abt how dumb the govt is and how all the smart ppl in the world sit in the silicon valley or blog…..

While this move by the Govt may be a little ill conceived but very country has a sovereign right to protect itself..US carriers share ALL data (bills, CDRs, Ip addresses, web behavior) with agencies and CALEA is one of the most intrusive laws around…..

But when any developing country does anything suddenly bloggers get all excited…..

Abhimanyu

Aswath, there are two different points here, the technical and legal. I concur that TRAI is fairly tech savvy COMPARED to the rest of govt since they have some of the best minds advising them.

This Blackberry issue is more to do with the HOME MINISTRY ie. INTERNAL SECURITY rather than the DoT and TRAI. As a macro concept, the powers that be still believe that ALL COMMUNICATIONS in the Republic of India need to be accessible to big brother “in the interest of national security”. Thus imho the VoIP controversy had more to do with monitoring ability and less to do with milking licenses for commercial reasons. MHA is scared that they wont be able to trace calls on VoIP the same way that they can do on GSM/CDMA/Fixed.

Isn’t the PSTN issue relevant only for Skype Out and PC to phone services? My impression is that for PC to PC VoIP, although they haven’t put this in writing, they are clearly not ok with it. Anyway, one positive outcome of this discussion is that the next time i’m at the ministry I’ll get them to come on the record on this issue :-) More power to watchdogs like you!

The debate that I suggested we continue on my blog was another issue altogether – your contention that indian tech media likes portraying sarkari types as idiots – i’ve put a detailed post on that so would love to see your response :-)

Aswath

I started this conversation here, so if you don’t mind let us continue it here (as long as GigaOm allows it).

Good to know that the original reporter has already contacted the relevant authorities. As I said in my previous comment, then I would have expected that this would have been mentioned in the story as well. This does two things – it puts them under pressure to respond and it gives the readers the assurance that the publishers will followup with a story when and if they receive a response. Otherwise it feels like a drive-by shooting.

In the case of VoIP, TRAI has made a logical regulatory guidelines. Many in the industry may not agree with their logic and would like to get a more favorable regulation. But that is a different story. Let me share my understanding of TRAI advisory. There are no restriction in VoIP except while interconnecting to PSTN. There are only two ways to interconnect to Indian PSTN: at the international gateways with International settlement charges; at the domestic gateways at a special settlement charges. The latter requires special license and the fees are not insignificant. We may not agree with the position they have taken that PSTN interconnection is a revenue source and they have decided to milk it. True believers of VoIP should not pay any attention to it because after all PSTN is living on borrowed times.

Can you please give me some reference where the government has claimed that Skype is illegal, because TRAI advisory does not say so. I suspect that Skype would like to interconnect at domestic gateways and that is the source of contention. In a previous post, Om Malik quoted a news story that said BPOs will be declared illegal because they are using VoIP. That report went unchallenged, when the real story is that BPOs were interconnecting to PSTN at domestic gateways. So let us be fair and also show that we understand the other side’s line of reasoning even as we disagree with them.

SomaS

Well, my understanding of the whole issue is that Government has woken up to this phenomenon of BlackBerry doesnt allow lawfulinterception of its emails and they want to correct itself now however my understnading of blackberry technology all the mails are piggybacking on the existing mailboxes of the enterprise mailservices or like yahoo’s and googles of the world, where is the question of montoring only balckberry services?

Abhimanyu

@Ashwath

Hi – i don’t know who the other Abhi is (though the FIRST comment abhi is me) but you can confirm that I’m the editor of Tech2.com by emailing me (my first name as spelt in this comment at tech2 dotcom)

Firstly great to see your attitude that you’re having fun and not getting personal like many commenters :-)

On the VoIP front, i think the scorn is directed more at the fact that DoT seriously expects the likes of Skype to apply for a VoIP license and thus become “legal” in India.

As for the piece itself, we’re India’s leading tech news and reviews site by traffic and as part of the Network 18 group, we’re hardcore mainstream in credibility though very “New Media” as (the other) abhi said in writing style – mix of news, opinion and even humour. Yes, our colleague from sister outfit CNBC-TV18 who broke this story HAS asked for confirmation from the MHA and DoT but not got a response so far. That doesn’t stop us from reporting the FACT that CNBC has filed this report quoting its sources.

And finally on your point of tech media showing regulators as Luddites .. well, I think we should carry that debate on at my blog (chakravyu dot com) where i’ve put up a post – one incident every year (since i’ve been on the india tech beat) that shows govt being clueless on tech. Let me know if you agree!

techmine

You are right Krishna. BB are all over in Infosys (at least) All the senior managers have BB push e-mail devices. Only Tata’s application has been turned down.

Aswath

@Abhi

I didn’t say the source is anonymous and I didn’t say that person could be fibbing. But the fact is the story is one-sided. It is an acceptable practice to state that the other side was contacted and didn’t respond or refused to comment. That is missing in the story. If I were to reference the story, I would point that out. If further I know that the source is “tongue-in-cheek new media outfit and likes throwing in its two bits … it doesn’t claim to be a medium of record”, then I hope GigaOm notes that as well, because I do not view GigaOm to be one.

I am still smarting from often repeated (including in GigaOm) that VoIP is illegal in India without being corrected. So it is taking it upon myself to be a watchdog. Hey, I am having fun.

Krishna

I think the headline is misleading. Airtel in India has been offering RIM blackberries for years. And I have been using this service for a while now. Looks like only tata’s application for the service has been rejected.

Puneet

Well, actually I am an overseas visitor, who shows up often with my berry.
And it works very well, thank you. In mumbai, I am mostly on hutch network, but can also switch to airtel.

John Doe

To bad for India, another reason why they should be further as a developed country but blind sided by their inability to open up!

This will be great for competing countries and India hinders itself to accept new standards in technology and communication.

Mandar Munagekar

I think this is no good reason, seems like they do not understand usability, technology: Assuming Blackberry services are stopped, how are they going to stop or intercept web access to emails, terminal client sessions, GPRS based application? they are high security threats….how can just an email become a security issue!! Somebody please ask them to hire more technical buffs!!

Abhi

@Ashwath

The source is not anonymous … its the MD himself of the affected party and it is unlikely he would be fibbing in public.

As for talking to government officials, only an Indian reporter would know how notoriously difficult it is to get these guys to say anything on the record … even when they do talk they always like to be quoted as highly placed sources.

And yes, the NYT would be quite comfortable carrying a story with these facts – as long as enough editors are kept in the loop as to who these sources are and their authenticity … the article quotes a report in the Indian edition of CNBC which is as reliable as it gets

As for opinion – Tech2.com is a typically tongue-in-cheek new media outfit and likes throwing in its two bits … it doesnt claim to be a medium of record!

Aswath

Tech section of the Indian press is notorious in presenting Indian regulators as Luddites and the blogosphere dutifully swallows it. Granted, I do not know what the facts are in this particular case. But the reporting on VoIP have been erroneous to the point claiming that it is illegal and no amount of producing the evidence to the contrary, the perception persists. This includes people who currently live and work in India.

But let me take issue with some of the “reporting”. The referenced news item quotes another published story that an application has been rejected. Their source is one of the affected parties. Of course there is no mention whether either of the news organization talked to the government officials. I am not a professional reporter, but is this acceptable? Can NYT get away with it?

The story also sarcastically suggests that terrorists will be using a different means to communicate. Let us take that and apply to the reporter’s personal life. A thief trying to rob a house can easily pick a lock. So the reporter does not lock his house or his car. Since a pickpocket can swipe the wallet without being noticed, does (s)he flaunt it in the open.

I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t criticize the government. I will be ahead of anybody else. But let us be truth to the facts.

Praveen Modi

Government officials might have not received their share and hence Blackberry became an issue of national security :-)

Do you think the officials have rejected the proposal if Ambani’s asked for it? Never!

Prateek

One of the other carriers has offered blackberries for years now. Roaming was seamless too.

Abhi

Actually Om, its the Ministry of Home Affairs (responsible for internal security) that has rejected it. The Dept of Telecom routes applications thru the MHA for security clearances … pretty Orwellian aint it?

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