U.K.-based network says router glitch affected some BlackBerry customers

TORONTO – Vodaphone, a major U.K.-based client of Research In Motion (TSX:RIM), experienced technical problems Friday that disrupted BlackBerry service to customers in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Vodaphone PLC said the issue was caused by a router error and that service was being restored.

“We apologize to customers for any inconvenience caused and we will provide updates as necessary,” Vodaphone said in an emailed statement.

RIM said it was working with Vodaphone to resolve the issue.

“All BlackBerry services are operating normally, but we are aware that a wider Vodafone service issue is impacting some of our BlackBerry customers in Europe, Middle East and Africa,” RIM said.

The disruption, while relatively minor in terms of the BlackBerry global subscriber base, came as RIM works to improve its image and launch the BlackBerry 10 generation of smartphones.

RIM hasn’t disclosed when the BlackBerry 10 smartphones will hit shelves or how much they will cost, but is scheduled to unveil the new devices on Jan. 30 in New York.

The BlackBerry 10 is seen as a make-or-break product for Research In Motion, which has lost significant market share to Apple’s iPhone and devices using the Android operating system, particularly smartphones and tablets from Samsung.

BMO Capital Market lowered its price target for RIM stock to US$9 from US$12 on Thursday, based on revised earnings estimates for the coming year and 2014 following a visit to the Consumer Electronics Show in Los Vegas.

“We believe the stock will be driven by the reception and results of BB10 products over the next few months, which we don’t expect to be positive,” BMO analyst Tim Long wrote in a research note.

“Over the intermediate term, we believe falling Service revenues may be more negative for the shares.”

The company, which released better-than-expected results in December, disclosed during its conference call that it would change the pricing strategy for its services — causing several analysts to lower their earnings estimates for RIM.

BMO is now estimating a loss of US$1.15 per share for the 2013 fiscal year, which ends in December — three cents deeper than the previous forecast. For fiscal 2014, BMO is estimating a loss of 60 cents US per share.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, RIM shares traded at C$11.64 at midmorning, down 15 cents from the previous close. The stock has traded between $6.10 and $18.23 over the past year.