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BlackBerry to go full throttle in Zimbabwe

By Janet Shoko
Posted on Wednesday, 9 April 2014 11:10

Despite years of lobbying, authorities in Zimbabwe have insisted that they will not allow the service, as they feared they could not police it.

BIS, which offers the famed Blackberry Messenger (BBM) allows users to send encrypted messages without the risk of interception.

government has to first ascertain that BBM services do not pose any threat to national security

The Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) says their major concern is that the BIS violates the country’s Interception and Communications Act (2007), which allows the state to intercept and monitor communications in the course of their transmission through a telecommunication, postal or any other related service or system in Zimbabwe.

However, acting permanent secretary in the Information, Media and Broadcasting Services ministry, Cosmas Chigwamba has indicated a change of heart by the government.

“You are obviously aware of the security threat the service potentially poses,” he said.

“(The) government has to first ascertain that BBM services do not pose any threat to national security, once this is established, I’m sure the green light will be given.”

But since the government first banned BIS, Blackberry’s stock has declined with the company losing its market share to rivals, Google’s Android system and Apple’s iOS.

The Canadian smartphone maker, Blackberry, has since allowed its flagship product BBM to be used on Android and iOS platforms, underlining the company’s decline.

The belated lifting of the ban will be nothing more than a pyrrhic victory for telecommunication companies that have been clamouring for BIS.

Chigwamba said applications by the mobile providers to offer the service to their subscribers is currently being looked into as well as amending the regulations.

Zimbabwe’s largest wireless network operator, Econet sought approval in 2011, but was turned down.

Industry players said at the time that Econet was closer to testing the service, but abandoned it following threats by POTRAZ.

At the time, the regulator threatened to cancel Econet’s operating licence if it continued with BIS trials on its network.

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