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BlackBerry subscribers to hit 5 million

The popular mobile e-mail device maintains its growth momentum, despite a legal tussle which had threatened to block its service.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Apparently unscathed from its messy patent lawsuit in the United States, Research In Motion (RIM) is on track to win its 5 millionth BlackBerry subscriber worldwide this month, says a company executive.

Norm Lo, RIM's Asia-Pacific vice president, said the growth in the subscriber base has remained consistent throughout the duration of its legal tussle with NTP, which had threatened to shut down the BlackBerry service in the United States.

RIM earned a respite late last week when the residing judge withheld an injunction against the push e-mail device maker.

Speaking at the launch of the new BlackbBrry 8700 handhelds here Tuesday, Lo said some 700,000 new subscribers would be added in the "next week or two" to the 4.3 million recorded in November 2005. This will bring the total number of subscribers to 5 million worldwide.

The new devices--BlackBerry 8700g and 8700v--run on Intel's Xscale processor, the result of a collaboration between RIM and the chipmaker announced last September.

According to Lo, the BlackBerry 8700 carries a number of "compelling phone features", such as Bluetooth support, built-in speakerphone and phone keys such as "send", "end" and "mute".

"People who are carrying [both] the BlackBerry and a cell phone, will have a very compelling case to throw away the cell phone," he said.

The handhelds, equipped with 64MB flash memory, also come with quad-band support for GSM, GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and EDGE (Enhanced Data Rate for GSM Evolution) networks.

Lo noted that while subscriber growth in the Asia-Pacific region is on par with the company's global growth rate of 20 percent quarter-on-quarter, RIM sees "tremendous opportunity for greater growth" in the region. It has plans to add at least 10 more carriers to its existing network of 21 carriers by the end of this year, he added.

In Singapore, the Blackberry 8700g will be available through SingTel and StarHub, while MobileOne will offer the 8700v. The handhelds have also been launched in Australia and Hong Kong, and will be available in other countries across the region in the coming month.

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