BlackBerry users across the Middle East, Europe and Africa experienced data disruptions on Friday in a service outage that Research In Motion Ltd. said was caused by Vodafone Group PLC's network, not RIM's own servers.
The outage, one of several that has affected BlackBerry users over the past two years, did nothing to dampen investor enthusiasm: On Friday, RIM's stock soared by nearly 13 per cent, perhaps on hope Nokia Corp.'s positive sales numbers earlier this week could have implications for RIM's chances with its own upcoming BlackBerry 10 phones.
Early glimpses of the touchscreen device, combined with numerous analyst upgrades and downgrades, have caused RIM shares to yo-yo over the past several months.
In a statement about the outage on Friday, Vodafone blamed the problem on a router problem in its network. "We apologize to customers for any inconvenience caused," the company said. A spokesman later said in an e-mail that Vodafone had "resolved the issue and services are returning to normal."
Although the data problems did not appear to be RIM's fault, it is a fresh reminder that the firm's unique business model – half handset maker, half global network provider – leaves BlackBerry users around the world vulnerable to at least some occasional outages, which can be extremely frustrating given how many people use their BlackBerry e-mail accounts for urgent communications.
The problem can likely be traced to where Vodafone's network meets RIM's own proprietary global network of servers, which RIM says makes its services more secure. RIM spokesman Nick Manning said on Friday the Waterloo, Ont.-based smartphone maker's servers were operating as normal, although he did not know why the Vodafone network problems only seemed to be affecting BlackBerry users.
"All BlackBerry services are operating normally but we are aware that a wider Vodafone service issue is impacting some of our BlackBerry customers in Europe, Middle East and Africa," he said.
Vodafone is one of the world's largest wireless carriers with more than 404 million subscribers. It has a 45-per-cent stake in U.S. wireless giant Verizon Wireless and operates in more than 30 countries across five continents.
The most recent outage attributed to RIM's network occurred in September, 2012, eroding confidence in the normally secure and reliable BlackBerry service that is depended on by corporations, governments and a growing consumer user base in emerging markets.
RIM's first major BlackBerry service outage happened in October, 2011, and was much more severe: It affecting BlackBerry users globally – alerting industry analysts to the possibility that operating its own proprietary data network could be a curse, as well as a blessing.
Regardless, the outage only seemed to affect BlackBerry users on Vodafone's various networks across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and not subscribers who were using other smartphones, such as the iPhone or a Samsung device.
A former RIM executive familiar with how RIM's global network interacts with wireless operators, but who did not want to be identified, said the problems are likely occurring where Vodafone's network links into RIM's network.
"It will be their relay links that meet the BlackBerry network," the former executive said in e-mail. "The carrier provides the links into the RIM network. So Vodafone (or their suppliers) have outages on those trunks, [which are] the cables between the Vodafone operation and RIM's operational 'meet me' point of presence."
In other news on Friday, RIM shares were downgraded by Bank of Montreal – a move that follows a flurry of both upgrades and downgrades in recent months that have made RIM's stock so volatile.
Research In Motion (RIM)