The telecom regulator has directed Grameenphone and Airtel to provide alternative solutions to 6,300 users of their BlackBerry services, as law enforcers are unable to monitor their current data and messages.
As a solution, the operators may have to swap all the BlackBerry handsets purchased from them—for other devices, which will be a hassle for the users.
Both mobile operators have sought time to come up with alternative solutions for their BlackBerry users, said Sunil Kanti Bose, chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.
BTRC asked the operators to submit detailed plans in seven days to enable the BlackBerry users to migrate to secured alternative solutions.
As per licensing terms and conditions, the government reserves the right to gain access to telecom service providers' networks—when deemed necessary.
But “lawful interception” to monitor emails or instant messages is of little use in the cases of BlackBerry subscribers, as the messages sent from the devices are highly encrypted to protect privacy.
Originally designed to attract corporate clients, BlackBerry's encryption algorithms are robust to decryption attempts by even supercomputers.
For instance, if intelligence agencies trace massages between two BlackBerry users, they are unable to get any valid information as the messages are coded.
The only way to establish any meaningful interception is to gain access to the BlackBerry handset or the company's servers, which is difficult when the former is in the hands of the user and the latter is in a different country.
The regulator had been communicating the issue with the operators for the last couple of years; BlackBerry authorities also came to Dhaka last year to address the matter.
Grameenphone had asked BlackBerry to set up a server in Bangladesh but the handset company discontinued their cooperation from last year, an official of the operator said on condition of anonymity.
The operator was supposed to set up the server by March, but that is no longer the case, the official added. The only solution is to swap all the BlackBerry user handsets, said a Grameenphone official. The operator has 4,664 BlackBerry users.
Mahmud Hossain, chief corporate affairs officer of Grameenphone, said the operator will communicate their plans on providing a solution to the regulator. “We need sufficient time to provide a solution.”
“We are aware of BTRC's direction to close down BlackBerry services and requested for two weeks time to come up with an alternative solution for the affected customers,” Grameenphone said in a statement.
Confirming the BTRC letter, Airtel said in a statement that it is working to find an alternative solution for its BlackBerry users.
In Bangladesh, officials of the Prime Minister's Office, foreign affairs ministry, Economic Relations Division, US Embassy, high commissions of Canada and Australia and some leading corporate houses use BlackBerry services.