BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. gave few details beyond a brief statement saying that customers were "experiencing issues," but telecommunications companies in the Middle East and Europe laid the blame at the Canadian company's door.
Khaled Hegazy, Vodafone Egypt's spokesman, said "there is a problem with the servers in Canada which is affecting service" in the region. He said they expected it would take about another four hours to resolve the issue, which first appeared to crop up at about 1000 GMT (6 a.m. EDT).
The extent of the outage wasn't clear. Vodafone UK said that customers across Britain appeared to be unable to access BlackBerry Messenger, a free-to-use instant messaging program which has helped make the handset popular with young people.
Across the affected regions, BlackBerry Internet access appeared to be sporadic. Some users were able to send and receive messages, while others using the same service provider couldn't.
Among the companies reporting problems were Qtel Qatar, Etisalat in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai-based Du, Zain Kuwait, and the Bahrain Telecommunications Co.
The outage occurred as RIM's co-CEO Jim Balsillie and other executives were in Dubai for the annual GITEX electronics show. Balsillie earlier in the day unveiled a new service at the show that will soon let users of some of its latest BlackBerry phones share documents, web links and other information with others by tapping their smartphones together.