Jul 16, 2009

Users reject etisalat story on BlackBerry trouble

Dubai: Etisalat's explanation for problems experienced by BlackBerry subscribers in the UAE after a "performance enhancing" patch was downloaded is "far from the reality of the situation," said the IT expert who first discovered the glitch.

A patch issued by the telecommunication company for BlackBerry users last week caused many subscribers to experience severe battery drainage and heating of their devices.

Doha-based computer programmer Nigel Gourlay had claimed the drainage was caused by hidden software in the patch that intercepted the user's communication.

After a few days of silence and growing frustration among its subscribers, etisalat issued a statement earlier on Wednesday, saying the patch had created a "slight technical fault".

It added that: "These upgrades were required for service enhancements particularly for issues related to the handover between 2G to 3G network coverage areas."

Louie H, the man who discovered the fault and posted it on the official BlackBerry forum, told that: "This statement from etisalat is in no way related to the issue. Programmers have seen the code for this patch and have confirmed it is designed to send information back to etisalat."

He also questioned etisalat's need to push a network upgrade on end users, saying such updates would not be done on the users' devices.

"These phones, like etisalat, use industry standards. This implies that there was something wrong with all the BlackBerry devices the patch was sent to," he added.

The statement issued by etisalat has also raised eyebrows among BlackBerry users who were under the impression that etisalat had already been using 3G networks for its BlackBerry subscribers, as it had advertised.

Etisalat said only a minority of its 145,000 BlackBerry users were affected by the patch, and that only 300 complaints were registered by its call centre. Gulf News alone received 239 complaints about the issue since running an article on the troublesome patch on July 13.

Many of the complaints cited either a lack of response from etisalat's customer support lines, or a lack of awareness of the glitch among customer support agents.

The statement from etisalat asks customers to continue calling the support line at 101, which would "resolve the issue completely". It did not elaborate on how the issue would be resolved. A number of BlackBerry users have complained that etisalat is citing a "wiping" or formatting of the phone as a solution, which leads to complete data loss.

Users of social networking site Twitter also expressed their frustration with etisalat and rejected its justification of the battery troubles they faced. A number of them questioned why etisalat had sent 3G updates, as the operator claimed, to phones that are not 3G capable.

Gulf News readers also doubted the credibility of etisalat's justification. Anees, a resident of Dubai, said he did not think its customers would trust any patches the operator sends in the future.

A reader by the name of Coolio said: "BlackBerry devices in the whole world have no issues handing over from 3G to 2G and vice versa, except in the UAE? No BlackBerry in the world requires the patch [except] Etisalat?"

Amin, from Dubai, said he would have liked to call etisalat to resolve the problem, as suggested by the operator "if only they would answer".

Rob, also in Dubai, said: "Who believes this? The issue has been investigated by several experts and all claim it is software so that Etisalat can monitor the BlackBerry traffic".

A twitter user in the UAE, upon receiving a text message, wrote: "Were you trying to apologise for spying on me etisalat? You should know I can't read Arabic text messages."

Repeated attempts to obtain a clarification of the statement from etisalat failed.

Research in Motion, BlackBerry's parent company, also did not respond.

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