BlackBerry outages spread to the U.S.

October 12, 2011

This post has been updated since it was originally published.

Research in Motion confirmed Wednesday that widespread problems with its BlackBerry network have spread from Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa to the United States and the rest of North America.

The company said on its Web site that fixing the problem was its “Number One priority.”

Millions of users around the world have been having trouble with their BlackBerry phones as they try to send and receive e-mail and access the Web.

RIM told its customers on its Web site Tuesday that the back-up switch for its systems had not functioned “as previously tested,” and had created a backlog of data that RIM is working to clear.

In a conference call Wednesday, RIM still did not provide a timeline for when service might be fully restored, but the company’s chief technology officer David Yach did explain a little more about the outage itself.

The service outages have spread across the world, RIM said, because messages from Europe have caused networks around the world to slow as RIM’s systems process the backlog. Any problems in North America can be traced to this backlog, as opposed to a problem with RIM’s systems.

The company said it believes it’s found the root cause of the outage, but will continue examining the problem after service is restored. The company said it has seen no evidence that the disruption is the result of a hack.

The company has been updating users sporadically through its Twitter account and press release page. The last major update came at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, when the company said that it would “provide a further update as soon as more information is available. Around 2:45 p.m., the company tweeted to say that it was still working “on clearing the message backlog in order to eliminate delays” and thanked users for their patience.

The timing couldn’t be worse for the company, which is preparing for a developer’s conference next week after seeing sales of its tablet, the PlayBook, fizzle.

Not only that, the outages are hitting the United States just as Apple has launched its competitor to the BlackBerry Messenger system, iMessage. The service, which functions much the same as BBM, allows all iOS 5 users to communicate over WiFi or 3G. Apple’s service also supports photos, videos, geo-location information and contacts.

The iPhone has slowly been eroding RIM’s business base, leaving the BlackBerry maker in a vulnerable position. Once the go-to phone for enterprise customers, the Canadian-based smartphone maker has seen its stock drop 58 percent over the past year, Bloomberg reported. Shares were trading under $25 as of 2:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Wednesday’s outage has certainly proven to be a tipping point for a least some BlackBerry users, The Washington Post’s Melissa Bell reported, with users taking to Twitter to declare that they’re breaking up with their phones.

Related stories:

More technology coverage from The Post

Apple iPhone 4S review: It’s the software that’s a surprise

BlackBerry service problems spread to North America

BlackBerry outage spurs customers to end their phone relationship

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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