Blackberry device, which has been the delight of several people because of its unique features, is gradually turning into a device that inflicts pains on its users, following its recent service disruptions, writes Emma Okonji and Amaka Eze
Telecommunications subscribers had before now, fallen in love with Blackberry devices because of its unique service offerings, which allow lovers of social networks, entrepreneurs, chief executives and managers of various levels, to receive and send business and official mails within and across the country. Others decided to own the device because it allows them to send messages to their loved ones free of charge. Ladies became so much passionate about it as it allows them an all-day free communication and navigation of all sorts.
That was when the device was at its best, providing exciting services to millions of its users, but recently, what seemed to be the delight of everybody, is gradually bringing pains, frustrations and loss of businesses to people who rely so much on it for business. The service, of recent, became erratic, causing service disruptions to its users, a situation that has forced subscribers to cry out for help.
Following the recent disruption of Blackberry services in the country, users of Blackberry device have continued to react differently, while narrating their ordeals. Most Blackberry users complained of their inability to receive emails, or PING their loved ones with their Blackberry phones.
For some weeks running, Blackberry phone users were cut off from communicating with their devices, as several people are having blank service. They could not receive mails neither could they send out mails.
The current situation being witnessed in Nigeria, is similar to what happened last October, when the Blackberry back-up system failed to function properly, which caused service disruption across Europe, Middle East, Africa, India, and Brazil.
Due to the poor service quality currently been faced by subscribers, users of Blackberry phones are confused as to whether the current challenges emanated from Research in Motion, (RIM), the manufacturers of Blackberry devices or from network service providers like MTN, Globacom, Etisalat, Airtel, among others.
RIM had recently tweet an apology to its users on its British Twitter account.
The statement read, “Some users had experienced issues with Blackberry services, apologies for any inconvenience caused, all services now operating normally.”
Meanwhile, Blackberry users who have depended on the device for real-time communications were once again disappointed, as they could not make contact with their Blackberry Messenger (BBM)- a social network application built into the device to connect people together.
People, who depended on their devices for their email notifications, and other social networks like Facebook, Twitter, 2go, Whatsapp messenger, Skype utilities among others, could not make any contact as the messages kept bouncing back.
Responding, RIM absolved self of the on-going Blackberry service disruptions in Nigeria, blaming it on network service providers. A staff of RIM, who spoke in anonymity, said: “There are no issues with Blackberry services from RIM in Nigeria for now. If there is any observed disruption, then blame it on network service providers.”
Defence of Service Providers
General Manager, Corporate Communications for MTN, Mrs. Funmi Omogbenigun, told THISDAY that MTN was not aware of any generalised Blackberry service disruption. She however said if there were little fraction of subscribers that had issues with Blackberry service on the MTN network, the telecommunications company would look into it quickly.
She promised to send the observed report to the appropriate department for prompt action, and made it clear that the perceived disruptions of Blackberry service in some parts of Lagos had nothing to do with the recent telecoms facility attacks in some parts of northern Nigeria.
Position of Telecoms’ Analyst
Not satisfied with the self-exoneration approach by RIM, and the defence of network service providers, a telecommunications analyst, Barrister Jiti Ogunye, blamed the situation on both device manufacturer and the network service providers. According to him, RIM and network service providers were only short-changing telecoms consumers because the consumers are not well protected by the consumer protection law.
He said network service providers would always blame it on poor infrastructure in the country, and punish consumers who bear the brunt. Ogunye called on all telecoms service providers in the country to shut down operations for a while and pay adequate attention to the continued disruption in telecoms services in the country, to enable them fix the right infrastructure and carryout the right routine maintenance on the infrastructure.
“Consumers suffer every fault from telecoms service providers and they keep giving excuses for their inadequacies,” Ogunye told THISDAY.
He insisted that RIM should not completely absolve itself from the blame, adding that there is something called ‘Performance Obligation’ in law, which compels the device manufacturer and the network service provider to provide optimal service to consumers of their products and services.
“Performance obligation is key to any contractual agreement, which must have been signed by the device manufacturer and the network service provider, and if it is not met, then both parties must be held responsible,” Ogunye said.
He blamed the whole scenario on the inability of consumer protection agencies to protect the rights of Nigerian consumers.
Speaking on the economic implications, Ogunye said Nigerians had lost millions of naira to the Blackberry service disruptions, and have lost businesses that would have turned around the fortunes of Nigerians, due to Blackberry service disruptions.
“Businesses are lost, business time is wasted, yet subscribers have already paid network service providers for the service not rendered,” Ogunye said.
He called on the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and every other consumer protection advocacy group in the country to rise up to the challenge, in order to save consumers from loss of time, money and businesses, in matters relating to service disruption, be it Blackberry service or telecommunications services.
The Blackberry Phone
Blackberry phone is a device with in-built social network applications that links people from different geographical areas together in a jiffy and can be used to access the internet at any point in time.
Other social networks like the Facebook, Twitter, 2go, Whatsapp messenger, Skype services, etc., are also available on the device.
Although these services are not for free; as users have to subscribe for Blackberry Internet Services (BIS) to make use of the device, the number of Nigerians who use the phone and subscribe to the services, almost outweighs users of other devices in the country.
Primarily known for its ability to send and receive instant messages via wireless connectivity, the phone remains the latest craze in town despite its cut-throat prices.
A large number of people from different parts of the country own one type of Blackberry phone or the other.
To some people, especially the youths, using a Blackberry phone is a do or die affair, and they can do anything to own a blackberry phone.