Thoughts On BlackBerry Fail

Fred Wilson credit: (CC) Randy Stewart,

As most BlackBerry users know, there was a large failure of the BlackBerry network yesterday. I experienced it although it wasn’t clear to me at first what was happening. The first sign was that my wife and kids were not responding to my messages on BlackBerry messenger (we use it as our family’s “batphone”). Then I stopped getting email on my phone. At dinner last night I could not check in on Foursquare through the mobile web or socialscope. I couldn’t get any access to the mobile web on my BlackBerry.

What this points out, and what this blog post is about, is that BlackBerry took down all my data services, not just BBM and email. And I think that is nuts.

Somehow BlackBerry took down mobile web access on T-Mobile, AT&T, and other networks. I guess that means that BlackBerry has some kind of overlay network on these carrier’s data networks. I am sure that is well known to mobile phone geeks and has been true for a long while. I just never wrapped my head around it.

I don’t think that is smart. In the perfect world, BlackBerry makes hardware and software apps like their mail, calendar, contacts, BBM, browser (if only they could make a good one). T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, etc provide the voice and data service. And the two don’t impact each other.

During this outage, I took the SIM card out of my BlackBerry and put it into a phone I recently got as a gift under the condition that I can’t blog about it. So I won’t. But I will say that my T-Mobile SIM card with the BlackBerry data plan wasn’t working in this new phone. I couldn’t even place calls on it.

Now the outage is over and the BlackBerry network is back up and running, the T-Mobile SIM card works fine in my new phone. I’m not sure what that means or why it happened, but it did.

The point of all of this is the BlackBerry approach to providing services via the carrier networks is not ideal. They are playing carrier, software provider, and hardware provider all in one. That’s not good.

Readers of this blog know how much I love my BlackBerry, but this new phone I can’t blog about is very nice and can take a plain vanilla GSM sim card with data services on it. I started thinking a bit harder about that configuration last night.

image credit: (CC) Randy Stewart,


Fred Wilson is a partner at Union Square Ventures. He writes the influential

, where this post was originally published.

Read more posts on A VC »


Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.