BlackBerry, a Canadian mobile company, has finally agreed to set up a server in Bangladesh, and if implemented, the country's intelligence agencies will have access to its subscribers' information.
The decision came at a meeting between Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) and BlackBerry officials, which took place in Dhaka recently.
BlackBerry has been providing services in Dhaka without a server, so there is no legal access to the classified information of more than 6,000 subscribers, which is putting national security at risk, BTRC sources claimed.
Once the server and a decoder are in place, intelligence agencies can easily monitor BlackBerry subscribers.
“If BlackBerry wants to carry on its business here, they need to establish their own server,” Md Giashuddin Ahmed, vice chairman of BTRC told Dhaka Tribune over phone yesterday.
He said BlackBerry has agreed to set up the server and has started the process of bringing in the necessary equipment. The server is expected to be set up in six months.
Earlier, BTRC had decided to shut down BlackBerry services, as the company did not respond to its request to set up a decoder server in Bangladesh.
Grameenphone, the leading mobile operator in the country, was the first to start services for BlackBerry devices in Bangladesh in 2008, followed by Airtel in 2011. Grameenphone has 4,668 customers, while Airtel has 1,661. Bangladesh has 100m mobile customers, and almost 99% of them are pre-paid users.
“There has been a positive discussion between the regulators and the BlackBerry authorities, but no decision relating to investment has been made yet,” Mahmud Hossain, chief corporate affairs officer of Grameenphone, told Dhaka Tribune yesterday.
Currently only post-paid users enjoy BlackBerry services. BlackBerry would like to provide services to pre-paid users as well, but the regulators are yet to take a decision on that, the sources said.
The sources said if BTRC gives the permission for pre-paid users, BlackBerry has to establish the server and decoder at its own expense. Otherwise, they will only have to bear the cost of the server, while the operators will pay for the decoder.
A decoder needs to be set up at the National Telecommunication Monitoring Centre (NTMC) to decode BlackBerry subscribers’ information.
According to BTRC, the users of BlackBerry services include the Prime Minister's Office, the Economic Relations Division, the foreign ministry and the US, Canadian and Australian embassies.
The main services of BlackBerry are regulated from Canada, but the company has set up regional servers in the US, UAE, Australia, India and some others countries to offer quality services.
Research In Motion Limited (RIM), owner of BlackBerry, had to install a server in India only for security reasons.
BlackBerry offers enterprise, internet and messenger services, which are popular among customers.
BlackBerry internet service is available in 91 countries, with 500 mobile operators using various technologies. The US intelligence agency, CIA, is its biggest subscriber, with about 250,000 connections.