News / London

Crunch time for BlackBerry

“Can you hear me now?” took on a whole new meaning yesterday for BlackBerry users.

Instead of repeating the catch phrase for dead cellphone signals, Londoners ' and people across the country ' were left sending frantic tweets, hatching email deals with business colleagues and messaging friends intermittently as the BlackBerry network switched on and off throughout the day.

“I am just at wit's end right now,” Sarah Baldwin, 31, of London said yesterday afternoon. “If my phone goes down for an hour or two, no big deal. But, at this stage, it's been all day.”

While the outage didn't hit Canada until yesterday, people elsewhere have been locked in a BlackBerry battle for days.

Outages for Waterloo-based Research In Motion's service started earlier this week in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The list of affected regions also included areas of South America along with Asian markets including Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and India.

The problem snowballed into a global situation as messages sent from outside of Europe to the continent while the system was down piled up and clogged the network, RIM officials said.

David Yach, RIM's chief technology officer, said the company is working around the clock to send the undelivered messages, noting that the problem isn't related to a security breach.

“All of the email will be delivered. We will not be dropping any email messages,” he said.

RIM's last outage was in December 2009 and it also experienced an outage in 2008.

Missed meetings and business opportunities aside, analysts said the outage is likely to spell more problems for RIM, which has been losing market ground to Apple and Android devices.

Apple's iPhone 4S, announced last week, is set to hit stores tomorrow.

Baldwin, a RIM stockholder and University of Waterloo graduate, is a hardcore BlackBerry fan. While she's not likely to opt out of the market, she admits the outage had her at least considering her options.

Some of her friends aren't likely to be as loyal.

“Some of them probably will be giving (their BlackBerrys) up,” she said.

If nothing else, the outage made Shauna Burke, 31, of London realize how dependent she's become on RIM's technology.

Even though she was at home yesterday afternoon, Burke kept checking for emails on her device.

“Instead of going to the computer, I'm cursing the BlackBerry,” she said.

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