BlackBerry agrees to address India's security concerns: MHA

New Delhi: The government today said the makers of BlackBerry-Research in Motion (RIM)-has given an assurance to it on addressing its security concerns soon and hoped that the Canadian service provider and security agencies would be on the "same page", reports PTI.

"BlackBerry has assured the ministry of home affairs that the issue of monitoring of the BlackBerry will be sorted out soon... I am sure we will soon be on the same page and our concerns will be addressed," special security (internal security) in the ministry of home affairs (MHA) Utthan Kumar Bansal told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.

The government has already warned the popular smartphone company that if it does not allow it to monitor emails and SMSes to address security concerns, it will have to close down operations in the country, spelling trouble for over a million BlackBerry users in India.

The government has said the RIM will have to address its security-related issues by allowing monitoring facility in India.

Mr Bansal said the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) was the nodal authority which makes the policy and it was working to address the issue raised by the MHA.

The MHA has asked the DoT to tell the company in no uncertain terms that its emails and other data services must comply with formats that can be monitored by security and intelligence agencies.

There are reports that China has got a server in that country and the MHA asked the DoT to check whether it is true.

The government also wants a BlackBerry server in India but the company has been resisting the move. Once the server has been set up in India, it will be easier to track the messages.

The MHA maintains that RIM has been addressing security concerns of several other countries, including the United States, where it operates and, therefore, there is no justification to not comply with the same in India.

BlackBerry says the messages are encrypted. The smartphone's server is based in Canada where the encryption level is very high and extremely difficult to crack. And any message going through a Canada server is encrypted and, therefore, cannot be accessed by intelligence agencies in India.

Senior officials of key security agencies at a recent meeting argued that the continuation of BlackBerry services in the present format poses danger to the country. The meeting was attended by representatives of the MHA, DoT, intelligence agencies and the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO).
The latest development indicates that security agencies are again finding it difficult to intercept or decipher messages sent through these phones, which use codes with an encryption of 256 bits.

This encryption code first scrambles the emails sent from a BlackBerry device and unscrambles them when the message reaches its target.

In 2008, the Indian government had threatened to block BlackBerry services unless RIM provided intelligence agencies here access to all data, especially emails, routed through these handsets.

The government had also insisted that RIM put in place a system that would allow it to intercept data sent through these handsets as it feared that these services could be exploited by terrorists.

After several rounds of talks between the government and RIM, the telecom department, in late 2008, had announced that the issue had been resolved.

Leading telecom companies in India such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar, Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL), Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) offer BlackBerry services.


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Survey points out to negative growth in fixed line phone business

Kolkata: The fixed line telephone business in India in 2009-10 saw a negative growth with revenues dropping by 23.3% to Rs18,900 crore from Rs24,649 crore in the corresponding previous fiscal, reports PTI.

The top three fixed line players-BSNL, MTNL and Bharti Airtel-reported a revenue decline.

However, some companies like Reliance Communications (RCom), Tata Tele Services Ltd (TTSL) and Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Ltd (TTML) posted growth in revenues, a recent survey by telecom industry journal 'Voice and Data' revealed.

The International Long Distance (ILD) segment posted a 17.3% growth to earn a revenue of Rs17,600 crore, thanks to a booming subscriber base of almost 600 million.

While Tata Communications (erstwhile VSNL) grew by 12.7%, the growth of RCom and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) was by 4.1% and 4.6% respectively, the survey revealed.

The ILD growth was a result of the Indian telecom operators increasing their presence in foreign markets. This brought in additional ILD revenue for domestic operators. With falling rates there has been a substantial growth in terms of inbound voice traffic into India.

Adding to their challenges is VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) based calling. The big challenge for ILD operators is the growing popularity of formal as well as informal (and illegal) internet telephony operators (for both inbound and outbound internal calls), who bypass the licensed operators.
The National Long Distance (NLD) market, too, bore the brunt of the price war as it recorded a Rs16,400-crore revenue, by posting a 13.6% growth in 2009-10 as compared to a 48% growth in 2008-09, the survey said.

Broadband services posted revenues of Rs9,000 crore recording a growth of 20% over the last year. Both BSNL and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) saw 57.3% and 92% growth in their broadband revenues respectively.

The Indian government had in 2004 set a target of 20 million broadband connections in the country by 2010, but, the survey found, the number of broadband subscribers stood at just 8.75 million subscribers.

Here also, the top 30 cities contributed to nearly 60% of all the broadband subscribers.

The only saving grace is the 149.03 million subscribers to wireless telecom services, which recorded a jump of 47.41% in the 12-month period ended December 2009.

The popularity of value added services (VAS), including short messaging service (SMS), ring-tone downloads, cricket scores and also advanced navigation aids and mobile payment features, picked up during 2009-10.

The vast potential of the market kept the VAS providers on their toes to build more India-focused content and services.

The VAS business, fast growing in terms of number of players, is highly competitive leading to wafer thin margins.

And with third generation (3G) coming in, this space is likely to get even more competitive and exciting.



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