Need some help with understanding the BlackBerry infrastructure

by Volker Weber

I am confused by the BlackBerry Internet Service registration process, and maybe you can help me understand. You will never read about this in the press, since RIM very carefully procures devices for review which have been registered to a BIS account and come with a SIM, so a reviewer will not notice these difficulties.

When you first register your handheld, or when you switch handhelds, then you have to enter the device PIN and the IMEI. Since I have a lot of SIM cards and BIS accounts, I often hit a wall when the BIS tells me that it will not accept the device, because it believes I am using the wrong website/device combination. Obviously either the device PIN, or the IMEI, or both are tied to the mobile carrier.

First question: Where is this information stored, and how can it be changed, and by whom?

Since the BIS is hosted by RIM and there is only a thin layer of branding on top of it, this is a very artificial barrier. Whom does it serve, and why is it in place? I can perfectly register a device on the Vodafone BIS, and then use an O2 SIM card to access it, but I cannot register the same device on the O2 BIS. If a device is registered on an O2 BIS, I can also access it with a Vodafone SIM.

Second question: Why are the devices locked to a particular carrier?

You cannot always use a different SIM with your BlackBerry handheld. T-Mobile for instance seems to have two device types. One for "prosumers" and one for enterprise customers. They have different APNs branded into the device, and therefore you have another barrier. You cannot use your "prosumer" BlackBerry by registering it with your BES. Which is another customer lock-in, since you need to buy a different device. This limitation does not seem to apply for O2 or Vodafone.

With the Vodafone 8707v exclusive device I found another limitation. It does not work with any other SIM (UMTS- and BlackBerry-enabled). I will always get a "Network Acccess Denied" error message.

Third question: How is the access to a BlackBerry APN limited by device PIN or IMEI?

Comments

Important questions and info. Thanks for highlighting them.

I've been investigating the Pearl here in Canada and only one carrier has it right now..trying to figure out if I can take it with me at later date. Also if I can set up a BES (SMB) for calendar and task synching and custom apps (later) - since BIS only seems to deal with mail.

Trying to figure out what can and can't be done is the biggest barrier and if I can't get if figured out in the next few months they will be losing a potential customer. They definitely need to get these kind of issues sorted out. Didn't know about the the great prosumer divide so thanks for the heads up on that one.

BillB suggested looking at their ISV program so I may be able to get more info that route.

Stephen hood, 2006-10-16

ich hoffe es ist nicht unhöflich auf Deutsch zu antworten:

1. Ich glaube (und glaube ist nicht = wissen) daß IMEI und PIN 100% gerätespezifisch sind, und glaube auch nicht daß man diese abändern kann. Letzlich sind diese ja auch die einzigen Angaben die ich in meinen BES eintragen muß damit er Kontakt mit dem BB aufnimmt und wenn jeder diese ändern könnte dann wäre das eher ein Sicherheitsrisiko als ein Feature.

2. Zur Unterscheidung zwischen Prosumer und Enterprise BB: Im Prinzip ist es möglich aus einen Prosumer ein Enterprise Gerät zu machen und umgekehrt. Ich hatte sogar schon mal den Fall daß "von alleine" genau das passiert ist. Anruf bei E-Plus und schon haben die das wieder umgestellt. Ist wohl passiert, als ich in das Prosumer Teil eine Enterprise aktivierte SIM reingesteckt habe. Keine Ahnung ob die da ein Servicebuch oder was-weiss-ich draufjagen, Fakt ist, daß sich die Geräte bis auf die Software nicht unterscheiden. Das mit dem Vodafone 8707v klingt übrigens nach einer klassischen SIM Lock. Ich habe schon fröhlich SIM Karten im BB gewechselt ohne Probleme. Und da gerade große Carrier wie Vodafone die BB gut sponsern (und dabei hoffen fett Kasse mit ihren BB Diensten zu machen) kann das durchaus sein.
Einzig wichtig ist, daß "GPRS" funktioniert (und nicht nur "gprs")
Zuletzt empfehle ich das http://www.blackberry-forum.de. Dort habe ich schon einige Ärgernisse die man insbesondere beim BES erhält, gut und kompentent gelöst bekommen.

Roland Dressler, 2006-10-16

Roland, deutsch ist kein Problem, siehe FAQ.

ad 1) Ich will nicht PIN und IMEI ändern, sondern will wissen, was wo für diese Daten hinterlegt ist.

ad 2) Ein klassischer SIM-Lock ist das nicht. Telefonieren geht, nur BB Service geht nicht.

Volker Weber, 2006-10-16

IIRC the IMEI is stored in a flash on the device itself. According to a chat with a Vodafone support gal, the PIN is calculated from the IMEI (perhaps with some other data). I'm not aware of a utility which can change either of those numbers, although it must be possible, as the RIM BB simulators allow you to do so...

T-Mobile really does differ between pro- and consumer devices. According to the "Geschaeftskundenvertrieb" just three weeks ago, they do not allow a prosumer device to connect to BES because "it uses quite different software", which is a load of bull. I've spoken to Vodafone, and they explain it so: whether a device is BIS or BES is decided by an APN (they called it a "sock") which is tied to the SIM card. Vodafone will change that "sock" or APN at a simple request which can be done with a phone call. T-Mobile refuses to do that. If you are a business customer (Geschaeftskunde) you can use BIS if you order the Web&Walk stuff, you get BES otherwise. If you are a normal human being and walk into a T-Punkt to purchase a BlackBerry, you get a device which has BIS on it. I understand it is almost impossible to convince the T-Mobile people to give you a BES APN for such a device, although I don't see a single valid reason not to do so, as they earn their money with the data and not with the device, let alone with the software.

Jan-Piet Mens, 2006-10-16

PIN and IMEI are determined by RIM at the time of manufacture, to my knowledge, they can not change.

The "lock in" is actually for the carriers, RIM doesn't care. The carriers do not want you to buy a device from them and get airtime from someone else, and vise versa. The PIN and IMEI are tied to the carrier, you can see this printed on the side of the box, each handheld is manufactured for a specific carrier, therefore the PIN/IMEI are tied to a carrier. The SIM cards are usually added to the box by the carrier after delivery of the handheld from RIM.

Same thing goes for the SIM card, if you change a SIM card and the device and SIM card are not from the same carrier, you can get denial of service ;-) This doesn't always happen, but more of the time. Depends on the carrier.

You can use *any* BlackBerry on BIS or BES, it is up to the carrier to make the required adjustments to the infrastructure to allow this to happen. The APN is tied again to the PIN and/or IMEI as they are hardcoded to the device.

--Pete

Pete McPhedran, 2006-10-16

Thank you, Pete. That was a pretty good explanation. But what happens if I buy a device and then later add BlackBerry Connect. This should be my own device and no carrier should "take possession of it. But they seem to do. How is that possible?

Volker Weber, 2006-10-16

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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