BlackBerry services down across UK, Europe, Middle East & Africa

October 11th, 2011

The BlackBerry service is down for consumers across the UK, Europe, Middle East and Africa for the second time in two days.

For the second time in two days, users of BlackBerry devices across the UK, Europe, Middle East and Africa are experiencing problems with e-mail, web browsing and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). The problems have originated due to a server crash at the BlackBerry data centre in Slough.

Which BlackBerry devices are affected by the service issues?

All consumer BlackBerry devices in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) are affected by the service issues. More accurately BlackBerry devices in EMEA which make use of the BlackBerry Internet Service are affected. Most corporate BlackBerry devices make use of a separate system called BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server). As BES runs independently from the consumer BIS service, corporate BlackBerry devices are unaffected by the BlackBerry downtime.

Which mobile networks are affected?

Three, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone – all of the mobile phone networks are affected. This is because all BlackBerry devices make use of the same service (the BlackBerry Internet Service or BIS) to provide services such as e-mail, web browsing and BBM. The technical issues have occurred downstream at BIS rather than any individual mobile operator. For this reason, all BlackBerry devices are affected by the service issues regardless of which mobile operator you are on.

Can I still make phone calls and send texts?

Yes. You can still make phone calls and send text messages during the Blackberry Internet Service downtime. Calls and texts are routed directly through your mobile operator directly and do not make use of the BlackBerry Internet Service.

What is Blackberry Internet Service (BIS)?

When you join a Blackberry tariff, your mobile operator will include a subscription to the “Blackberry Internet Service” (BIS). This service provides many the “smart” features of the BlackBerry.

The Blackberry Internet Service is run by Research In Motion (the company which makes the Blackberry) and provides the following functionality:

  • internet access
  • Blackberry Messenger (BBM)
  • e-mail service (including push e-mail)
  • converts e-mail attachments into a format which can be read by the Blackberry device
  • other push alerts
  • compresses all data before it is delivered to your phone (this makes your 500MB last between 2x and 3x longer)

As the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) is shared amongst all mobile operators, this creates a single point of failure for all BlackBerry devices.

How can I browse the web during this BlackBerry outage?

Some BlackBerry applications are designed to work without the BlackBerry Internet Service. As a temporary resolution, the Opera Mini application for BlackBerry can work without BIS providing you’ve configured the APN settings correctly on your device. If you are lacking access to your e-mail due to the BlackBerry outage, you may be able to use Opera Mini to access your web mail.

Can I still access the internet over wi-fi?

Yes. You can browse the web by connecting your BlackBerry to a wi-fi network. However, any features or applications which make use of the BlackBerry Internet Service will not work. This includes push e-mail and BlackBerry Messenger.

Are there any ways of accessing my BBM messages during this outage?

No, the BlackBerry Messenger service is down so there is no way of accessing your messages during the outage. Several hoax chain messages have recently been going around the BBM service – please do not forward these as they did not originate from Research In Motion.

Are any other devices or applications affected?

No. Devices running on other operating systems such as iOS (iPhone), Android or Windows Phone do not make use of the BIS service and are hence unaffected. The iPhone, Android and Windows Phone should never suffer from the same issues as BlackBerry owners have experienced this week as they connect directly to the internet through your mobile operator rather than being routed through a central service such as BIS.

As a temporary workaround to the BIS issue, you could borrow a non-BlackBerry smartphone from a friend or colleague.

Where can I find out more about the BlackBerry service issues?

BBC News and The Telegraph have coverage of the BlackBerry service issues. You can also follow the discussion on Twitter.

For official announcements and updates from Research In Motion, you should follow the BlackBerry Twitter and BlackBerry Facebook pages.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

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