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BlackBerry problems affect millions around the world

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Thousands of Vincentians were among the millions of persons in the Americas whose Blackberry service was disrupted on Wednesday, as a snag that had been affecting messaging in Europe,{{more}} the Middle East and Africa since Monday this week spread to its largest market.

Subscribers in the Americas may experience “intermittent service delays,” RIM said on its website on Wednesday, October 12. The company said it is working to resolve the issue and apologized to users.

Local Blackberry service providers LIME and Digicel both apologized to customers on Wednesday, with LIME doing so by text message, while Digicel posted its apology on its Facebook page.

The disruptions began in Europe and Asia early this week. BlackBerry users continue to have problems accessing data services as RIM works to clear the backlog of data, U.K.-based mobile-phone operator Vodafone Group Plc told the Washington Post on Wednesday.

“The resolution of this service issue is our number one priority right now and we are working night and day to restore all BlackBerry services to normal levels,” RIM said on its U.K. website.

RIM, which has built a reputation as a maker of secure and reliable e-mail devices, is struggling to stem declines in market share to touch-screen phones such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone that offer more consumer applications. The service disruptions began in areas that RIM is counting on for sales growth as revenue in North America drops.

RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, fell 1.8 percent to $23.97 at 10:48 a.m. New York time. Before today, the stock had dropped 58 percent this year.

RIM routes its traffic through two main centres, in Waterloo for North America and in Slough, southern England, for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said Nick Dillon, an analyst at research firm Ovum in London.

That network concentration “has always been a risk to the service,” Dillon said. BlackBerry “is still the most robust e- mail system.”

RIM said the delays were caused by a core switch failure within its infrastructure. While the system is designed to transfer to a backup switch, that didn’t happen, it said. The result was a large backlog of data.

For RIM, facing investor demands for a shakeup in strategy and calls for new leadership, the interruption comes at an inopportune time. The company has to fix the problem today (Wednesday) to avoid sacrificing customer data as the backlog grows too great and alienating clients, said Malik Saadi, an analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media in Guildford, southern England.

“They cannot afford to have the problem for one more day, because the data backlog will just be massive,” Saadi said. “It’s really a race against the clock.”

Regions outside the RIM’s traditional stronghold of North America are accounting for an increasing share of its revenue and new subscribers. As RIM’s U.S. revenue dropped 50 percent last quarter to $1.11 billion, sales outside the U.S., U.K. and Canada jumped 38 percent to $2.33 billion.

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