U.S. Navy will complete phasing out of BlackBerry devices by end of April

The U.S. Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command will complete phasing out BlackBerry devices for thousands of Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) users by the end of April.

Authorized users have been swapping their Navy-issued BlackBerrys for iPhones since SPAWAR announced the transition to Apple iOS and Android smartphones last year.

“BlackBerrys are almost out of the Navy inventory,” Rear Adm. David H. Lewis, head of Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, told an audience Thursday on the second day of the West 2016 conference hosted by U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA International.

“We’ve just started expanding to Android devices.”

“In 45 days or so, we’ll be out of the BlackBerry phase,” Lewis said.

When the Navy began to phase out BlackBerry for its NMCI users in December 2014, it had 24,590 BlackBerry accounts and 18,624 active users on its books, said Marty Brown, the mobility lead for NMCI. As of this week, about 3,100 BlackBerry users still had to make the transition, which should be completed by March 31, said Ed Austin, spokesman for PEO-Enterprise Information Systems.

The transition to Android has taking a little longer than Apple devices. Brown recently got authority to test the Android operating system and, so far, he’s put 48 Androids to the test.

“We are making sure they are every bit as secure and that we can properly manage them. We are working out some of the bugs because Android has a different control than the iPhone,” he said.

Ironically, what gives the user NMCI access is the Good app. The secured mobile platform application developed by Good Technology, recently acquired by BlackBerry.

“If you lose the phone, we can wipe the phone or wipe the container,” Brown said.

“You have to enter a complex password to get in,” Brown said. “Everything inside of that is protected. You can’t export anything out of the container, you can’t take anything from your native phone into that container. It connects back through a VPN (Virtual Private Netowork) via the Navy Enterprise to get email. When we start putting more apps in there, the apps will go back through that same VPN. So we can control what this phone does.”

The Navy decided to leave BlackBerry behind and go in the direction of iPhones and Android devices.

“Our thought was, why do you force people to use a device they wouldn’t pick for themselves in the marketplace,” Brown said.

“By and large, it’s been extremely positive. I love my iPhone. This is the greatest thing I have.”

It won’t be the definitive end to the BlackBerry’s relationship with the Navy. Some NMCI users will retain their BlackBerrys. The transition is limited to NMCI, for now, Brown said, and doesn’t affect BlackBerry users on the Navy’s overseas networks: CANES, the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services that’s the Navy’s tactical afloat network, and ONE-Net, which supports overseas shore commands and are doing separate transitions.


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