Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian maker of the BlackBerry device, may be forced to launch the latest version of its smartphone in the UAE without a key feature, as talks with operators continue ahead of a global launch, according to a report on Wednesday.
The new BlackBerry Messenger Voice (BBMV) allows customers to make free phone calls over Wi-Fi and is a key feature of the new BlackBerry 10 device being launched in Dubai on Wednesday evening, part of a global launch across six major cities across the world. Another feature allows users to make free video calls.
A report in the Wall Street Journal said RIM was talks with UAE operators du and Etisalat over concerns BBMV will impact revenue streams. RIM is also in talks with the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), which has apparently encouraged operators to allow the service to be activated.
"We would not want the UAE to be seen as a restrictive case," an unnamed senior TRA official was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
A RIM statement said the company will “continue to work closely with our partners in the United Arab Emirates to bring BlackBerry services to our customers".
"We undertake rigorous due diligence with all BlackBerry product and service launches to guarantee the functionality, features and rich user experience that our customers have come to expect, while ensuring that they comply with the regulatory framework of the countries within which we operate," RIM added, but declined to confirm whether BBMV will be available when sold to customers after the launch in Dubai.
Skype, a service which allows users to make phone calls via the internet, is also partially blocked by operators in the UAE.
RIM reported a narrower-than-expected loss in financial results posted in September 2012. A one-time smartphone pioneer, RIM has failed to keep pace with rivals such as Apple and Samsung Electronics, and its stock price has tumbled about 70 percent over the past year while its market share shriveled.
In July last year, BlackBerry services in the UAE faced severe disruption, with users for a time losing access to messaging and email as RIM's network grappled with technical challenges. In October 2011, users in the Middle East, Europe, India and Africa were hit by three days of downtime in another case of technical failure.
Shipments of BlackBerry smartphones were 7.4m in the third quarter, outpacing Wall Street's expectation of about 6.9m.
The Waterloo, Ontario-based company reported a net loss of US$235m compared with a profit of US$329m in the same period a year earlier.