The government has fixed March 31 as deadline for all telecom operators to submit plans for interception of their services, including popular BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) of Research in Motion (RIM), by security agencies.

The Home Ministry has asked the Department of Telecom (DoT) to ensure that all telecom operators submit their plans by the end of this month on when they can provide access to all services, including BES, whenever there is a necessity for the security agencies.

RIM, which offers the BlackBerry services through eight operators, has been saying that it cannot provide access to the popular BES as it does not possess any key and the security architecture is the same around the world.

“If they cannot give access, they have to put off their services in India,” an official said.

The order will cover all service providers, including RIM, Skype and others. There are over one million BlackBerry subscribers in India and the number is growing fast.

By March 31, the Centre will also put in place a security architecture for the telecom sector through which the government could put in a new facility to deposit open software and new testing facility in certain forms.

Indian security agencies have been demanding access to all BlackBerry services as part of efforts to fight militancy and security threats over the Internet and through telephone communications.

Last month, Home Secretary G. K. Pillai had said that telecom operators will have to stop any such services that cannot be monitored as per the satisfaction of law enforcement agencies.

“Our aim is to make sure that whatever goes through our networks, we should be able, if required, to intercept it... The issue is that we want that if you are using the network as per the licensing condition, there must be a provision for us to intercept... those which we want to intercept and that must be readable and legible format,” Mr. Pillai had said.

Eight operators including Bharti, Vodafone, Idea, RCom, Tatas and also two state owned firms — BSNL and MTNL — are offering BlackBerry services across the country and it has emerged a popular service among corporates for its enterprise mail service.

RIM vice-president (Industry, Government and University Relations) Robert E. Crow, who was in India recently, had said, “There is no possibility of us providing any kind of a solution. There is no solution, there are no keys to be handed... It’s not possible to do so because the keys of the service are in possession of the corporate enterprises.”

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