Second outage hits BlackBerry users worldwide

12 Oct 2011

The BlackBerry Bold

Millions of BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East and Africa have been joined by millions more users in South American countries like Chile, Argentina and Brazil as a second outage has hit the BlackBerry network.

On Monday, BlackBerry users in Europe spent a day without their email, internet and BBM services due to a server fault at a data centre in Slough, in the UK. Services began being restored between 10pm and 12am.

However, yesterday at about 12pm, the fault started all over again, including South American countries, as frustrated users complained at the apparent lack of connectivity.

The problem is understood to be caused by a failure within Research in Motion’s own infrastructure. A transition to a back-up switch did not go according to plan, causing a large backlog of data.

The BlackBerry network is a closed, secure system and Research in Motion has fought hard to stave off pressure from countries in the Middle East and Asia to allow them to conduct surveillance of the network.

For Research in Motion, the outages couldn’t come at a worst possible time. The company is struggling to win back customers in the smartphone market it largely created.

It is fighting hard to make its core devices, such as the BlackBerry Bold and Curve, sexy again, in the face of competition from the Google Android and Apple iOS. On Monday, it introduced a new NFC-based ‘tap and share’ function that allows users to share photos, files, contact info and more by simply tapping BlackBerry devices together.

It also faces new competition from Apple in the messaging space. Its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) helped win it thousands of savvy new customers, a lot of them teens and 20-somethings – but now it faces the onslaught of a rival service from Apple called iMessage, which will arrive with its new iOS 5 operating system later today.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years