The device is expected to make or break manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) - which announced it has now changed its name to BlackBerry too - and had one of several global launches in Dubai on Wednesday night. But there was confusion over whether UAE users would ever get to use the Z10’s new BBM Voice (BBMV) service, which allows users to make free phone calls over a Wi-Fi network.
The firm has reportedly been in talks with the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) to encourage telecoms operators to allow the service to be activated. But the status of those talks was still hanging in the balance as the wraps came off the long-awaited new smartphone.
For their part, BlackBerry have said: “We’ll let you know as soon as the service launches in the Middle East.” However, a boss at a leading UAE electronics retailer has said precedent suggests that the feature is unlikely to be available in the UAE.
Ashish Panjabi, chief operating officer at Jacky’s, thinks the service could be a lifeline for Canadian firm BlackBerry - particularly in emerging markets like the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
“I think what you will find is at least a USP for BBM again - because honestly, in the Whatsapp age, the relevance of BBM was becoming less important, especially in the last year and a half,” he told 7DAYS.
He said RIM may try to talk around UAE operators with the promise of being able to charge customers a flat fee for the new service. But he’s not sure they’ll succeed.
“On past record, I don’t think it’s something you can expect to happen,” said Panjabi. However, at the launch yesterday, BlackBerry said that the Skype video-chat service would be available on its new BB10 operating system.
But ultimately, whether BBMV does make it to the UAE depends on the regulator. Panjabi said: “I know RIM is negotiating, I know they are trying, but it’s a matter of whether they’re going to get the headroom from the TRA.”
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