Outages could rattle BlackBerry's iconic status

Tue Feb 12, 2008 6:03pm EST
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By Wojtek Dabrowski

TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion's BlackBerry could lose its iconic status in the eyes of corporate and retail subscribers alike if it doesn't manage to stem service problems such the ones that led to two major outages in less than a year, analysts say.

A three-hour service problem left subscribers across the Americas with spotty or nonexistent access to wireless e-mail on Monday.

RIM said late Tuesday an early investigation pointed to a problem with an upgrade of a data routing system. The upgrade was part of an ongoing effort to expand capacity for long-term growth, it said.

The outage hit RIM's most important market, with about two-thirds of its roughly 12 million subscribers in North America.

The region was also the center of a longer outage that snarled wireless e-mail last April. That time, RIM blamed a new storage feature that hadn't been properly tested.

Research Capital analyst Nick Agostino said that in previous years, there was "relatively little" disruption to RIM's service, used by executives, politicians, lawyers and other professionals to send secure e-mail to and from handsets.

Now, two major outages have occurred in the space of 10 months.

"Obviously, if this sort of frequency and pattern continues, then it'll certainly start to turn people off longer term," Agostino said.   Continued...

<p>A shareholder uses his Blackberry while waiting for the Research In Motion annual meeting to begin in Waterloo, Ontario, July 17, 2007. Research In Motion said on Tuesday it is too soon to determine the cause of a massive BlackBerry service outage that left subscribers across the Americas with spotty or non-existent access to wireless e-mail for about three hours on Monday. REUTERS/J.P. Moczulski</p>