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Govt Snubs Tatas, Denies...

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push-mail services (Reuters)

The government has asked Tata Teleservices not to offer BlackBerry services unless the required monitoring system that security agencies are insisting on is put in place.

"Keeping in view the security implication involved, the licensee (company) is directed not to connect or provide or run the BlackBerry e-mail and mobile messenger services unless the required monitoring system to the satisfaction of the security agencies are in place and the master key and algorithm are deposited with the licensor," the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) said in a letter to Tatas.

Tata Teleservices and Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) limited had sought permission for launching BlackBerry services saying other leading operators have been offering services without meeting the above mentioned security clauses.

"... Non compliance of instructions by any other operator in breach of terms and conditions of the licence cannot be a valid ground for according permission to offer BlackBerry services," DoT said.

The Department of Telecommunication and the Ministry of Home Affairs have been battling with  BlackBerry licensor Research-in-Motion (RIM) and also mobile service providers such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance Communications to put in place a system to intercept data sent using the BlackBerry technology.

Earlier on 24 March, the government had issued a stern warning to telecom companies to put the required security system in place within 15 days or stop the services. The directive was issued to the respective service providers to work out with officials of RIM on providing full-proof security system in the country.

The DoT Secretary had recently said that the government was keen to resolve the matter at the earliest.

When contacted, RIM's spokesperson had said that RIM operates in more than 130 countries around the world and respects the regulatory requirements of governments and that the company does not comment on confidential regulatory matters or speculation on such matters in any given country.

Telecom Minister A Raja had also said that security of a nation was of paramount concern and this would not be sacrificed at any cost.

C-DoT, a technical wing of DoT, has the monitoring capabilities provided the licensor puts the server in India enabling interception of contents of e-mails, if required, on the BlackBerry handsets.

Under India's Information Technology Act of 2000, the government has the right, under certain circumstances, to intercept electronic communications for security reasons and in the national interest. Security agencies say that terrorists are increasingly using the internet and applications such as e-mail to communicate with one another.

Telecom Secretary Siddartha Behura had, however, ruled out banning the Blackberry services.

BlackBerry is famous for its push-mail services that deliver mails as and when it receives, and has over 12 million customers across the world.

The BlackBerry controversy erupted when DoT first rejected an application by Tata Teleservices to offer BlackBerry services to its customers on the ground that the service cannot be allowed in the absence of a "lawful interface."

However, the Tatas wrote back to the government and raised the question as to how other operators were given permission while theirs have been rejected.

Top members of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) who have been in dialogue with the government say that such monitoring is not undertaken anywhere in the world, a report said.

"What you are trying to create is a police state, you want to monitor every mail which emanates out of a server which is not in India. With that logic, all email services should be closed down," the report quoting COAI said.

(Agencies and BW Online Team)

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