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DEVICE OUTAGE CRIMPS MILLIONS

BlackBerry e-mail services were lost for hours Monday.

A major service outage afflicted users of the popular BlackBerry smart phones across the United States and Canada on Monday.

Officials with AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless said BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. told them customers of all wireless carriers were affected.

The outage appeared to affect users on all U.S. wireless carriers from about 3:30 p.m. to 6:50 p.m., according to a spokesman at AT&T. It was not clear that it touched all 12-million BlackBerry subscribers worldwide and appeared to only involve e-mail, according to representatives from AT&T and Sprint Nextel. Phone service on the devices was not affected, according to an Sprint spokesman. There was no word on what caused the service interruption.

The BlackBerry service, which lets users check e-mail and access other data services on their handheld devices, has become a lifeline for many business executives and is increasingly popular among consumers with models like the BlackBerry Pearl.

Major disruptions have been rare but often provoke an angry backlash against the Canadian company because of its typically lengthy silences about the cause and because it eventually gives only cryptic, jargon-laden explanations.

When the BlackBerry service suffered a major outage last April, the company remained silent about the cause for two days.

The latest outage enraged some BlackBerry customers who were also hit by the network failure last year.

The BlackBerry has drawn a loyal following, particularly among business users, since its introduction nine years ago. Eight-million of RIM's subscribers for its BlackBerry service are based in North America.

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