News Analysis: Berry In A Fix

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

The mobility market is bustling with activity. The e-mail market,

particularly, appears to be heating up with Airtel announcing tie-up with

Microsoft to offer Windows Mobile 5.0 to its corporate customers. While Airtel

has broadened its portfolio of offerings for mobile mail users, RIM, the maker

of Blackberry, surprisingly, continues to remain reluctant to expand its

offerings through other mobile service providers in India. Users of Hutch or

other operators cannot go for Blackberry, as there is no number portability in

India. The corporate users also feel that going for another device, just for

e-mail makes little sense.


RIM's Contention

Globally, Blackberry is increasingly becoming popular instead of mobile

e-mail. But instead of capitalizing on this advantage, RIM has taken an

exclusive route to expand in India. When VOICE&DATA asked about RIM's

reluctance to go to other service providers like Hutch, even in the wake of

Airtel's newly announced relationship with Microsoft, the vice-president, Asia

Pacific, RIM, Norm W K Lo said, “We are happy with the relationship with

Airtel, as it is adding a great value to Blackberry users. We will continue to

maintain its exclusive tie-up with Airtel.” He refused to comment on whether

RIM was in talks with other service providers.

Global Situation

Incidentally, RIM has partnered with multiple operators in countries like

the US, Hong Kong and Singapore. Interestingly, Microsoft has not gone for an

exclusive arrangement with Airtel. For example, in the US, Microsoft boasts of

clients like Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and Cingular.

RIM's global competition includes Palm, Hewlett-Packard, Nokia, and

Motorola, as far as the device is concerned. On the software side, its rivals

include Good Technologies and Microsoft. However, Blackberry's edge over

Windows Mobile 5.0 lies in its capability to provide end-to-end solution unlike

Microsoft. It provides all the software components of push e-mail solution, but

not the device itself and has tied up with HP and i-mate for device support. 



There are 5.5 mn Blackberry devices among 2.5 bn mobile phones

in use


There are around 25,000*

Blackberry users among 116 mn mobile users



Bharti Airtel's Competitive Edge

The tie-up with Microsoft was Bharti Airtel's masterstroke to further

consolidate its position of being a mobile e-mail provider with wide range of

devices and options. It has got a definite lead over its competitors like Hutch,

Idea, and others. The incumbents-BSNL and MTNL-also have not really been

able to focus on the high-end segment.

According to official response of Bharti Airtel, “With the Windows Mobile

5.0, Airtel has expanded its business solutions portfolio.

Windows Mobile 5.0 complements Blackberry. Depending upon the usage

patterns, requirement and suitability, customers can choose what they want.

We now offer them a choice with the latest in the field of on-the-go

access to business information.”



Vs Rest*





(Mail v1 - Push Based and Idea Mail v2-Pull based)

Handset Requirement

Only Windows devices

Only Blackberry device.

Offers Blackberry Connect services for other handsets

Symbian and Windows


Handset Examples

Nokia S60 series

phones, Nokia Communicator, Sony Ericsson: P800, P900, P910i, Imate, O2,

HP ipaq, Krome

Blackberry, Nokia 9500

Communicator, Nokia 9300, smartphone and Sony Ericsson P910

O2, ipaq, SP 230, Nokia,

Sony Ericsson, Motorola

Handset Cost

Rs 10,000 to 30,000

Rs 15,000 to 25,000

Rs 10,000 to 30,000


AES 128-bit encryption

End to End AES or

Tripple DES encryption-FIPS 140-2 validated encryption

128 bit AES encryption



View Attachments

View Attachments

View, Edit, Save and

Re-send Attachments

Mail Platforms

Microsoft Exchange and

Lotus Domino

Microsoft Exchange,

Lotus, POP 3 and IMAP 4 supported mail

Microsoft Exchange,


Recurring Cost (Monthly

Subscription Fee, downloads)

Rs 199 (pay for usage*)Rs

499 (500 MB free, thereafter pay for usage*)Rs 699 (1 GB free, thereafter

pay for usage*) Rs 899 (Unlimited Access)

Entry price of Rs 499.

Airtel charges 50 paisa per kilobyte

Rs 500 with zero usage


*The list is only


Way Forward

Blackberry's strategy of continuing its exclusive relationship with Airtel

is a big limitation. It has become a real hurdle in the growth of Blackberry

devices in India. According to an estimate, out of a total mobile population of

106 mn, there are around 25,000 Blackberry phones in India (there is a

non-disclosure arrangement between Airtel and Blackberry to not reveal the total

number of such devices in the country). While it is a win-win situation for

Airtel in the light of its recent Windows Mobile 5.0 tie-up, RIM appears to be

in a spot.

Consider the offerings of other mobile service providers. There is a strong

feeling among other service providers like Idea Cellular that they have been

deprived of the privilege to offer Blackberry devices to its corporate

customers. The company organized a vociferous media campaign sometime back to

prove that other devices offered by the companies (Ericsson, Nokia and others)

were superior to Blackberry. Even Hutch Mail claims to offer almost same level

of services as Blackberry.  However,

a random check made by VOICE&DATA reveals that some CEOs using Blackberry

have a high level of satisfaction.

Only time will tell whether RIM extends its multi-operator strategy for India

while considering the increase in numbers of high-end users, who depend on

mobile e-mail. The company has just come out of a long-standing patent dispute

with NTP after paying $612.5 mn. With Motorola and Nokia planning to introduce

more e-mail devices to counter Blackberry, RIM's task is well cut out.

Sudesh Prasad