Johannesburg - CEO of mobile operator Vodacom Group [JSE:VOD] Pieter Uys
on Wednesday moved to clarify the group's position on BlackBerry, after it dropped a bombshell on Monday that it intended to curb connection speeds of those customers who were "abusing" the Blackberry Internet Service (BIS).
Uys said: "I'm very concerned that the steps we were planning to put in place were interpreted as punishing normal users. This is not at all our intention and no changes have been implemented to slow down any customers' BlackBerry service."
Vodacom said that an increase in complaints from BlackBerry users in recent months had been investigated, and it was found that the service was being negatively affected by a very small number of customers downloading vast amounts of data.
The group said on Monday that it had studied usage patterns to better understand the causes of congestion at peak times, "and one surprising finding" was that more than 95% of BlackBerry data usage was attributable to less than 5% of users.
It said that steps had been taken to ensure that the 95% of the BlackBerry users who were currently using the service fairly "are not impacted by those who are abusing the service. The 5% of the base who are not using the service for what it was intended will have their connection speed reduced from 3G to 2G levels," it said.
Vodacom stressed that the BlackBerry service was designed to enable customers to use a BlackBerry smartphone for internet browsing as well as sending and receiving emails and messages on the handset itself.
This on-device experience was provided for a fixed fee, made possible by the use of the BlackBerry service, which compresses data. The device could also be linked to computers and used as a modem, called "tethering". Since tethered data did not run via the BlackBerry service, it was charged at normal data rates. The same was also true for video.
By using special software and websites to circumvent the BlackBerry service and by downloading huge files for use off the handset itself, a very small number of customers were abusing the service, the mobile operator said.
This, it said, could amount to hundreds of gigabytes of data per user each month. "By doing this, this small group has negatively affected the network experience of all Vodacom's BlackBerry customers," Vodacom said.
"We are instead working with the makers of BlackBerry, Research In Motion, to find a solution to manage the bulk movie and file downloads, since these are responsible for degrading the service for all other users. By managing this issue we'll improve the service for all of our BlackBerry customers," Uys said.