Wireless carriers plan for possible BlackBerry ban


North America’s biggest wireless carriers are preparing in case Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry service is shut down south of the border, but they’re keeping a tight lid on those contingency plans. At stake is an important revenue generator. The BlackBerry has become a must-have device for the corporate set because it allows constant e-mail contact.

But Waterloo, Ont.-based RIM’s lengthy patent dispute with patent holding company NTP Inc. of Arlington, Va., has put the future of that service in question. So it’s safe to assume wireless carriers, whose networks carry BlackBerry messages, will be watching closely this Friday when a U.S. judge holds a hearing on whether to impose an injunction on RIM that would shut its service in the United States.

RIM says it’s come up with a way, through special software, to work around the patent problem so U.S. customers can continue to use their BlackBerrys. Canadian users would need the workaround solution when visiting the United States.

“We’re working with RIM to ensure our clients aren’t disadvantaged,” said Chris Langdon, vice-president of wireless solutions at Vancouver-based Telus Corp. He said Telus is doing testing and certification to understand software changes that need to be made, and ensure they work on the network and devices. Other carriers say they’re taking a close look at RIM’s so-called workaround solution.

“Obviously we’ve been evaluating the workaround contingency that RIM has provided for implementation for BlackBerrys,” said Mark Siegel, a spokesman for Atlanta-based Cingular Wireless LLC.

The workaround solution will require customers to download the new software to their BlackBerrys, while corporate customers’ information technology departments will have to upgrade the software on their BlackBerry servers.

Wireless carriers say some older BlackBerry models, such as the 5810, won’t be able to use the workaround solution because there isn’t enough memory.

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