RIM and Skype face Indian ban

Caroline Gabriel/Rethink Wireless
07 Jul 2010

Mobile players have been waiting with bated breath for Indian operators to start rolling out long awaited 3G networks. But all kinds of obstacles are appearing, many related to stepped-up security policies by the Indian government.

First, the Department of Telecom has become hostile to cellcos buying equipment from Chinese firms, citing security concerns. But operators are calling for the DoT to hold off confirming the new spectrum licenses until it has a clear policy on where they can purchase their infrastructure, a row that could delay the first awards and roll-outs.

Now, the DoT has been asked to serve a notice to Skype, RIM and reportedly Google to demand that their email and other data services only use formats that can be read by Indian intelligence agencies. If they fail to comply, they face a ban, just as the networks to support services like BlackBerry are on the horizon.

The reports surfaced in two Indian newspapers late last week. The Economic Times and the Hindu Business Line claim that Skype and RIM could be banned if they do not comply within 15 days. Google denies it has received a similar demand concerning its Gmail service and the government departments are being cagey so far.

The ultimatum was issued after a meeting of the DoT, the home office, the Intelligence Bureau and the National Technical Research Organization. It read: “The Department of Telecommunications will call the representatives of Research In Motion and Skype and ask them to ensure that the content going through the telecom service providers is in readable format. They have to ensure that this is implemented within 15 days failing which services that do not allow lawful interception on a real time basis would be blocked/banned.”

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