DOD’s mobility plan a boon for BlackBerry

The Defense Department isn’t giving up on BlackBerry, with plans to have the company’s cell phones make up roughly 98 percent of one of its unclassified networks.

The Defense Information Systems Agency, which manages DOD IT and communications support, has announced that the DOD Mobility Implementation Plan will support 80,000 BlackBerry phones and 1,800 iOS and Android mobile devices. Version 1.0 of the unclassified mobility capability will begin deployment on Jan. 31.

Initial release capabilities include a mobile application store, approved devices list, the mobile device management system, supported cellular access, DOD PKI support, DOD Enterprise Email, the DOD Global Address List, Tier 2/3 Service Desk Support and Defense Connect Online, DISA said. The mobile program currently supports 16 mobile applications and is vetting an additional 90 applications.

The program ultimately seeks to build capacity to support up to 100,000 users by the end of the fiscal year.

The announcement also had the effect of raising BlackBerry’s stock prices, which at one point rose as much as 12 percent, Bloomberg reported. After dropping 33 percent last year, the stock has risen 37 percent this year.

BlackBerry has seen its fortunes fall in recent years, losing out, particularly in the consumer market, to Apple and Android phones. Government agencies, long a bastion of BlackBerry users, also have been taking small steps toward accommodating iOS and Android devices.

But the company has an advantage in military smartphone procurement because Samsung Electronics Co., the largest producer of Android devices, and Apple are not always capable of meeting the Pentagon’s security specifications, Bloomberg reported.

BlackBerry became the first smartphone maker to secure DOD device management approval back in August 2013, as ZDnet noted. The company’s BlackBerry 10 phones were awarded an “authority to operate,” the highest level of certification for DOD networks.  

And the company said at this month’s Consumer Electronics Show that it plans to open a security innovation center in Washington, D.C., in order to work more closely with its government customers.  

At CES, Randy Siegel, founder of Center Circle Consultants and chairman of an AFCEA subcommittee on tactical and wearable mobile devices, applauded the move. "I've heard with my own ears customers,” he said, “specifically DOD customers in combatant commands, say [they] are staying with BlackBerry and moving to BlackBerry 10," InformationWeek reported.

About the Author

Joey Cheng is an editorial fellow with Defense Systems.

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