Corporate & Institutional Communications / English / Media

Research In Motion, very Limited

BlackBerry Points to Equipment Failure

Published: October 11, 2011, New York Times

OTTAWA — The maker of the BlackBerry said on Tuesday that the failure of a critical piece of equipment and a backup system had left BlackBerry users in several parts of the world without instant messaging service or reliable Web browsing for over two days.

The problem began Monday and initially affected BlackBerry users in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. By Tuesday it had spread to India, Brazil, Chile and Argentina.

In Twitter messages and on online forums for BlackBerry users, like, many people seemed to be frustrated by the lack of communication from Research in Motion, which makes BlackBerrys, over the erratic service.

“This is what’s wrong with RIM,” a Vodafone subscriber in Farnborough, England, wrote on Crackberry. “Arrogant and disrespectful to its customers.”

Late Tuesday afternoon, RIM issued a statement on the BlackBerry Facebook page pointing the blame at the failure of a switch that links its internal network to the Internet as a whole.

“Although the system is designed to fail over to a backup switch, the failover did not function as previously tested,” the company said. The statement suggested that the resulting backlog of undelivered data would create further service delays until it was cleared.

Such failures have happened previously. Last month, the BlackBerry Messenger service went down for several hours in Canada and Latin America.

But the most recent failure came in markets that remain bright spots for RIM, which is fast losing market share in North America to phones using the Android operating system from Google and Apple’s iPhone. By contrast, the BlackBerry remains particularly popular in Britain and India.

The failures also undermine a crucial distinction for BlackBerry. RIM operates a unique global data network, helping it to offer corporate and government customers high levels of security for their communications. For consumers, this network, when it functions properly, can bring improvements to Web browsing. BlackBerry Messenger, which is popular with young BlackBerry users because it avoids instant messaging charges from carriers, is also a byproduct of RIM’s special network.

The disruption did not extend to the United States or Canada. While RIM will not offer specific information about its internal network, job postings from the company suggest that its network operations are divided between control centers in Waterloo, Ontario, where the company is based, and Slough, England.