News reports over the weekend indicate that Research in Motion (RIM) and Saudi Arabia have come to an understanding which enables Blackberry's messenger service to continue to operate in the country.

The Saudi Arabian government had announced last week that it would be banning Blackberry instant messaging services beginning on the 6th of August

According to this APreport over the weekend, RIM has agreed to place a server in Saudi Arabia which the government can monitor for criminal activities and national security purposes.

Another AP story says that this may set a precedent for other countries like the United Arab Emirates and India among others who want more access to Blackberry information.

Given that Blackberry data is encrypted (corporate account information at a stronger level of encryption than consumer account information, which a lot is not), the question is whether the Saudi Arabian government will get Blackberry encryption keys as well.

This New York Timesarticle today says that, "RIM officials flatly denied last week that the company had cut deals with certain countries to grant authorities special access to the BlackBerry system. They also said RIM would not compromise the security of its system."

The article also notes that, "At the same time, RIM says it complies with regulatory requirements around the world."

Squaring that circle is an interesting question to ponder, and has led to talk of secret deals being made to allow Blackberry data to be read. The Times article, for instance, notes that US law enforcement has expressed little "frustration" with dealing with Blackberry encryption.

A different AP story late yesterday reported that Bahrain's Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said his country would not be banning Blackberry services, even though they may pose some security concerns. Sheikh Khalid was quoted as saying, "There are many other ways for the criminals or terrorists to communicate, so we decided we might as well live with it."

According to this last AP story,  Shaikh Khalid posted a message last Thursday in his Twitter account, saying that it had come from the Bahrain's crown prince, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

In it, Shaikh Khalid quoted Shaikh Salman as "offering assurances no ban on messaging was planned, saying a decision to halt the service would be 'ignorant, short sighted and unenforceable.' "

Whether that sentiment will go much further than Bahrain, remains to be seen.

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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