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700,000 Saudi BlackBerrys go silent noisy

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Updated Saudi Arabia has carried out its threat to cut off BlackBerry users in the country, with 700,000 addicts reduced to talking on the phone and perhaps even doing some work.

The Bangkok Post reports that the email service stopped working around midday after the government had made it abundantly clear that networks which failed to enact the ban would face significant fines.

It's unsurprising that the companies have cut off the service, but what's harder to understand is the urgency with which the government applied the ban. The neighbouring United Arab Emirates (UAE) has said it will be cutting off the service in October, giving RIM (the company behind the BlackBerry service) plenty of time to negotiate.

Saudi Arabia only announced the intended ban earlier this week - RIM would have had to come dashing to the table to prevent the ban being enacted, which the company obviously declined to do.

BlackBerry Users, no longer able to lose themselves in each other's messages, will be reduced to phoning or using SMS messages - neither of which is so easily disguised as work. ®

Update: The block was short lived it seems, as the BBC is now reporting that BlackBerry devices in the country are operational again. That just leaves the question of what concessions RIM has made to keep its users connected: we'll let you know as soon as we know.

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