BlackBerry e-mail paging went down for more than three hours yesterday, disrupting communication across the United States for users ranging from New York traders and consultants to Capitol Hill staff members.
The breakdown is a setback for Research In Motion Ltd., which is facing competition from software makers such as Microsoft Corp. and providers including PalmOne Inc.
Chief Executive Officer James Balsillie is aiming to resolve a patent dispute with NTP Inc. that may force the Canadian company to halt the U.S. sale of BlackBerry devices.
Yesterday's outage was at least the third since 2001.
"I've always thought of it as infallible," Jennifer Meyers, director of strategy for London-based consulting firm Interbrand in New York, said. "It's never happened to me before. It concerns me because there was no indication what was going on."
Research In Motion has more than 3 million BlackBerry subscribers, and U.S. users accounted for about two-thirds of the company's $1.35 billion in revenue last year. Known in some circles as "CrackBerries" for their habit- forming tendencies, the devices are used by, among others, money managers to keep up on market headlines.
Delivery of e-mail was delayed or halted from about 8:15 a.m. until about noon. Mobile-phone carrier Cingular Wireless said it was affected for about the same period. Spokesmen for Research In Motion did not return calls for comment.