NEW YORK — Research In Motion on Wednesday told some North American clients that a backlog of messages is substantial and unlikely to be cleared until Thursday morning on the U.S. East Coast.
It said delivery of email was sporadic for roughly half of BlackBerry users globally.
The company said it was working frantically to end a three-day global disruption of BlackBerry services that has frustrated millions of smartphone users and put more pressure on the company for sweeping changes.
The Canadian company, in a hastily announced conference call, vowed to deliver all email and instant messages to the tens of millions of customers who have been affected by the outage.
"Think of it like a dam and the water is the data," said Jefferies analyst Peter Misek. "Once the dam bursts it's really difficult to get the water back behind the dam. That's what they're attempting to do right now."
BlackBerry users across the world were exasperated as an outage of email, messaging and Internet services on the phones spread to the U.S. and Canada and stretched into the third day for Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa.
It was the biggest outage in years for BlackBerry users, and strained their relationship with an already tarnished brand. It came on the eve of the launch of a mighty competitor — a new iPhone model.
RIM said earlier that a crucial link in its European infrastructure failed Monday, and a backup didn't work either. The underlying problem has been fixed, but a backlog of emails and messages has built up that the company has yet to work down.
Meanwhile, emails and messages from other regions to Europe are piling up in RIM's systems in the rest of the world, like letters clogging a mailbox. That's causing the outages in the U.S. and Asia, said David Yach, RIM's chief technology officer for software.
RIM is already struggling with delays in getting new phones out, a tablet that's been a dud and shares that are approaching a five-year low. In the latest quarter, it sold 10.6 million phones, down from 12.1 million the same period last year.
The duration of the latest outage could force large businesses to rethink their use of BlackBerrys, said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi. Many of them have stuck with the phones because of the quality and efficiency of its email system, but that's now in question, she said.
Consumers are having second thoughts too. Andrew Mills, a child abuse investigator for the state of Arkansas, said he'd been thinking of getting some other smartphone for a while, and the outage was the "nail in the coffin" for him.
The 27-year-old has used BlackBerrys for five years, but friends and family have abandoned them, and he's set to do so in a few weeks. "From what I can see on their new phones they're not doing anything that's competing with Droid and iPhone," he said.
In the United Arab Emirates, the two biggest phone companies said they would compensate their BlackBerry users for the mishap by giving them at least three days of free service. Matthew Willsher, chief marketing officer for Etisalat, the country's biggest telecom, said it was acting in response to the "exceptional and unprecedented circumstances."
In Colombia, that country's chief consumer watchdog urged telecoms service providers to compensate customers locally for lost service as a result of the global BlackBerry outage, promising an investigation into the breakdown.
Industry and Commerce Superintendent Jose Miguel De La Calle said carriers including Telefonica's Movistar and America Movil's Comcel should act on their own as intermediaries between consumers and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion.
"We have the resources and capability to investigate this lack of service, so we will do it," De La Calle told a news conference. "Every Colombian who is a BlackBerry customer has paid for service and should receive it."
He declined to say if regulators would impose any sanctions against the companies, saying the investigation was preliminary.
Colombia experienced two other BlackBerry outages in the past month, before the most recent problems that have impacted customers all over the world.
Unlike other cellphone makers, RIM handles email and messaging traffic to and from its phones. That allows it to provide services that other phones don't have, optimize data service and provide top-class security. But when it encounters a problem, a large share of the 70 million BlackBerry subscribers worldwide can be affected all at once. BlackBerry outages tend to occur several times a year, but they usually last for less than a day.
One of the BlackBerry's big attractions is the BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM, which works like text messaging but doesn't incur extra fees. That service was affected by the outage, and to make matters worse for RIM, Apple Inc. is releasing software Wednesday for its iPhones that works like BBM. The iPhone 4S will be released on Friday. Competition from Apple is one of the chief causes of RIM's diminishing fortunes.
RIM shares fell 51 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $23.90 in afternoon trading in New York as major indexes rose. The shares hit $19.29 a week ago, the lowest level since 2006.
Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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