BlackBerry problems hit four continents

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LONDON — A series of failures in Research In Motion (RIM)’s private network has disrupted BlackBerry service to millions of customers across four continents.

Extensive delays hit Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India on Monday and the problems spread to Brazil, Chile and Argentina on Tuesday.

“The messaging and browsing delays being experienced . . . were caused by a core switch failure within RIM’s infrastructure,” the company said in a emailed update late on Tuesday afternoon in Toronto.

RIM’s BlackBerry service has long been prized by executives and politicians who rely on its security and reliability to deliver email and other messaging to mobile workers.

The Canadian company manages this service via servers parked within enterprises and hooked up to a proprietary network carried by wireless operators.

“Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested,” RIM said.

Failover refers to the automatic switching of service to a standby server in the case of a failure of a main system.

RIM hosts a number of network operating centres, including one at its headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario, and another in southern England, which manage the massive amounts of data that flow through its system. RIM said it was now working to clear a large backlog of data and restore service as quickly as possible.

“We apologize for any inconvenience and we will continue to keep you informed,” it said.

RIM had earlier said it had resolved problems disrupting its services in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.