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NTSB latest US agency to drop BlackBerry in favor of iPhone

The National Transportation Safety Board found its BlackBerry devices to be failing at an unacceptable rate

The National Transportation Safety Board in the U.S. plans to drop the BlackBerry smartphone from Research In Motion for Apple's iPhone, citing performance issues.

The iPhone 5 smartphone will replace the NTSB's existing BlackBerry devices, which "have been failing both at inopportune times and at an unacceptable rate." NTSB said in a justification of the intended purchase on the Federal Business Opportunities website, which requests bids for U.S. federal government work.

NTSB is an independent federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the U.S. and significant accidents in other modes of transportation, including railroad, highway, marine and pipeline.

The issues with the BlackBerry apparently created problems for the agency which "requires effective, reliable and stable communication capabilities to carry-out its primary investigative mission and to ensure employee safety in remote locations."

The notice posted on the FBO website on Nov. 13 intends to issue a sole source solicitation to Verizon Wireless to provide the iPhone 5 smartphones.

NTSB has an existing contract for wireless cellular and data services with Verizon Wireless, and also purchased BlackBerry devices through a separate contract with the carrier. The agency now wants to take advantage of a device refresh facility offered to it by Verizon at no additional cost.

The NTSB, which has already deployed iPad tablets, also hopes to benefit from the operational support already in place to support Apple's iOS operating system. "The NTSB is a small organization with limited resources. As such, it needs to standardize on a minimum number of operating platforms," it said in the document.

Software required to transfer required functionality from BlackBerry devices to iPhones is currently in use by the NTSB and minimal additional software will be necessary to support the transition to the iPhone 5, it added.

Some government clients have said they planned to shift from the BlackBerry to meet their smartphone requirements. The U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, a user of BlackBerry smartphones for over eight years, said last month it would move over 17,600 users to iPhones from BlackBerry phones, as it found that technology from RIM could not meet the mobile technology needs of the agency, according to contract documents.

RIM could not be immediately reached for comment. It said last month that it had one million government customers in North America alone who depend on BlackBerry, and more than 400,000 government customers worldwide upgraded their devices in the past year.

The Canadian company said earlier this month that its BlackBerry 10 platform has been certified as meeting a Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) ahead of launch. This is the first time that BlackBerry products have been FIPS certified ahead of launch, RIM said in a statement. The FIPS 140-2 certification, issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, certifies products for use by U.S. government agencies and regulated industries that handle sensitive information.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com


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