BlackBerry: Govt convenes meeting of telecom operators

New Delhi: With BlackBerry makers passing on the buck to telecom operators for monitoring its services, the government has called a meeting of service providers this week to discuss the issue, reports PTI.

Official sources said while the onus of giving access to security agencies to monitor the information on these phones lies with the service providers, the home ministry will ask them as to which services were not accessible.

"We will tell the service providers in categorical terms that the government will allow them to offer only those services which could be intercepted by the security agencies.

If any service cannot be intercepted, we will not allow them to run such services in India," sources said.

According to the licensing conditions, service providers are liable to put in a mechanism allowing security agencies to intercept any conversation or message of any subscriber whenever required.

As telecom service providers like Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Communications (RCom), the Tatas and the government-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) are offering BlackBerry services, it is the responsibility of these operators to ensure that the security agencies get access to all services they offer.

Sources further said the maker of BlackBerry phones, Research in Motion (RIM), has conveyed to the operators that services like email and voicemail can be intercepted by the security agencies but no commitment has been given to services like BlackBerry Messenger.

Last week, Blackberry made a fresh attempt to break the logjam over its services in India by offering "metadata" and relevant information to security agencies which will enable them in lawful interception but failed to enthuse them.

RIM representatives explained that the BlackBerry mobile device sends the encrypted email which is sent to BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) located with the service provider.

BES decrypts messages and sends it to email server of the service provider where it remains stored in decrypted form.

Then it is pushed to the BlackBerry device in encrypted form.

After some persuasion, the representatives agreed that "they can provide the metadata of the message like Internet Protocol address of BES and PIN and International Mobile Equipment Identity of the BlackBerry mobile," sources said.

Metadata is loosely defined as data about data. It provides information about a certain item's content like how large the picture is, the colour depth, the image resolution, when the image was created, and other data. A text document's metadata may contain information about how long the document is, who the author is, when the document was written, and a short summary of the document.

However, the sources said the RIM, which has nearly one million subscribers in India, failed to enthuse the security agencies who want an uninterrupted access to the messaging services on BlackBerry platform.


Parliament passes bill for resolving regulators' disputes

New Delhi: Parliament today passed a bill providing for a mechanism to resolve disputes between financial regulators as an ad hoc arrangement, reports PTI.

The government is still working on a permanent body to settle the inter-regulator disputes such as the Securities and Exchange Board of India-Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (SEBI-IRDA) turf war, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said.

"It is not a knee-jerk reaction, it is ad hoc arrangement," he said in the Rajya Sabha replying to a debate on the Securities and Insurance Laws (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2010.

The bill provides for a joint mechanism, headed by the finance minister, to resolve the disputes between different financial regulators.

However, before the dispute is placed before the joint mechanism, it would, like in the past, go to the high level coordination committee headed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor, he said.

Mr Mukherjee said the government had to issue an ordinance on 18th June providing for such a mechanism, in the wake of the turf war between stock market regulator SEBI and insurance watchdog IRDA over the jurisdiction on the popular Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP).

Allaying apprehensions on government interference in the autonomy of RBI and financial regulators, he said there was no such intention.

"What do you expect me to do? Will I remain a mute spectator, if they (regulators) quarrel like petulant children? My concept of autonomy is not like that....It is not good for the economy," he said.

Mr Mukherjee said with growing economy, there would be more regulators in different sectors and there could be possibilities of inter-regulator disputes.

For resolving such disputes, there should be a permanent mechanism. The government has already floated a discussion paper on the proposed Financial Stability Development Council (FSDC).

As the paper has been placed in the public domain, it is being debated whether the FSDC would have statutory powers or not.


New ULIP guidelines may impact insurers' profitability: IRDA

Hyderabad: The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) today said profitability of insurance companies will be impacted with its new guidelines for Unit-Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs), which invest part of funds in equities.

The regulator advised the insurance companies to reduce their expenses to maintain the bottomline in the long run.

"I do hope there will be an impact (on profitability). Ultimately the idea of guidelines is to have impact. My concern for the insurance industry is not what is going to happen in 2010-11. The concern is that the industry must remain healthy, be able to grow and be sustainable," IRDA chairman J Hari Narayan told reporters here.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the inauguration of NSE.IT, a subsidiary of the National Stock Exchange, for online testing for insurance agents.

He said the insurance companies must take a look at long term achievements and should bear with the initial hiccups.

"Insurance is always a long-term industry. What might happen in six months and one year is not important. There may be some hiccups. What is going to happen in mid- and long-term is significant. So what might happen in the given year is not important," he said brushing aside the industry apprehensions.

Insurance companies are of the opinion that the capping of surrender charges and the even distribution of charges over the lock-in period of five years will adversely impact the profitability of companies.

ULIP sales will also be adversely affected as agents may be unwilling to sell products at lower commissions.

He said the companies should adopt cost-cutting measures in order to maintain the profitability.

"When you are trying to contain cost, it is not by doing one thing. It can be your electricity bills, administrative cost, travel cost and also agents cost. There will be a host of things to be implemented. The insurance companies should redesign their products and they must be in the interest of policyholders," Mr Hari Narayan said.

Commenting on the cashless insurance schemes being refused in corporate hospitals, the IRDA chief said as on 1st July there were are about 320 hospitals in the network for cashless facility in four metros which later decided to withdraw the cashless facility in view of high charges.
Subsequently the hospitals renegotiated rates with insurance companies. As many as 390 hospitals signed up for the network facility. The hospitals also constituted an internal committee for pricing, Mr Hari Narayan said.

Replying to question on the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority's (PFRDA) opinion that pension plans of insurers must logically come under its purview, he said the matter will be referred to the joint committee set up by the government to resolve issues that involve two regulators.

Mr Hari Narayan said draft norms for the health insurance sector will be announced shortly. IRDA, along with the Confederation of the Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), is working on finalising modalities.


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