Continuing Problem Leaves Millions of BlackBerry Owners Across Globe Without Email and Internet

Service mostly restored, but problems could persist throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa

3 min read
Continuing Problem Leaves Millions of BlackBerry Owners Across Globe Without Email and Internet

There are news reports this evening about a major problem with RIM's BlackBerry Smartphone services. According to an AP story, an unspecified problem beginning at about 1000 GMT today cut off email and Internet access, including BlackBerry Messenger service, to millions of BlackBerry users across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The AP story says that the problem was blamed on RIM server problems in Canada, while this story from the Independent in London blamed the outage on RIM servers issues in the United Kingdom.

A story in the Financial Times of London reports that at least 10 million of RIM's 70 million BlackBerry users were affected. While the problem occurred mid-morning in Europe, it wasn't until late afternoon that RIM acknowledged there even was a problem, the FT reported. That slow response has probably not sat well with BlackBerry users, many of whom may be looking to buy rival Smartphones and don't need much of an excuse.

In a short—two sentence—statement, the RIM apologized to its customers "for any inconvenience caused."

The AP story says that RIM is also warning that "...some customers may continue to experience delays with instant messaging and browsing services."

There have been a couple of notable BlackBerry outages over the past few years as well (see here and here, for example).

I'll update this story as better information becomes available.

Update (Oct. 11, 2011)

After RIM said that everything was back to normal this morning, apparently there are new problems with BlackBerry services this afternoon—albeit with the same symptoms—cropping up today across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

RIM has been very closed-mouthed concerning the outage from yesterday, and they are no more open about today's. Customers are not happy.

I'll again update this as events transpire.

Update (Oct. 12, 2011)

Late yesterday, RIM finally said that it had traced the problem it was having to a "core switch failure within RIM's infrastructure" as well as a failure of a previously tested back-up switch. The company had hoped that services would be back to normal by today.

Unfortunately, there are new reports today that indicate that not only has the problem not been contained and solved, but that instead it has spread into North America. According to this AP report, some Canadian and U.S. BlackBerry users have found that they are now having trouble with their email service.

This note posted today on BlackBerry's Web site at 9:45 (GMT-5):

"BlackBerry subscribers in the Americas may be experiencing intermittent service delays this morning. We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and we apologize to our customers for any inconvenience."

It is unknown how many BlackBerry users are now affected, but probably many more than the 10 million thought to be affected on Monday when the problem first emerged.

Update (Oct 13, 2011)

Well, it finally looks like RIM's major service problems are receding but they may still continue for some BlackBerry users for awhile.

RIM, after being exceedingly tone deaf to the criticism it was receiving for being so uncommunicative about the service interruptions,finally posted more than a couple line cryptic explanation as well as a video apology this morning from Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-Chief Executive Officer of RIM.

In the video, Co-CEO Lazaridis apologized for the outage and stated that BlackBerry services were slowly coming back online. However, he also said the company could not say for certain when all services across all regions would be back to normal. He said there still could be service issues cropping up.

The BlackBerry press release, which was a statement from Robin Bienfait, RIM's CIO gives another apology as well as provides status information as of late yesterday for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, Canada and Latin America and for the US, each of which were affected slightly differently. The main focus of RIM now seems on working through the backlog of emails and other messages. The press release seems to confirm that a very large portion of RIM's 70 million BlackBerry users were affected by the outage.

It will be interesting to see whether this latest - and likely to be longest and most far reaching - outage will have any material affect on the company's long-term outlook.  The next big issue will be dealing with compensation demands from both corporate and individual users, more than a few who are exceedingly angry. If RIM handles this poorly, it will be another nail in the company's reputation and market place coffin.

Update (Oct 14, 2011)

BlackBerry service now seems to be fully back to normal. There are no news reports of any continuing service problems.

It is estimated that some 40 million BlackBerry users were affected by the glitch, although none within Japan itself (Japanese BlackBerry users did have trouble connecting to non-Japanese BlackBerry users, however).

As I mentioned yesterday, claiming compensation for the outage seems to be the main concern of users now. RIM has made no official comment on paying compensation other than to tell customers that:

"We will get back to them.”

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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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