Dear Berry: How can I use a BlackBerry without BIS?

By Dear Berry on 26 Dec 2013 09:21 am EST

Hello again readers! Dear Berry is here once again with a mailbag full of BlackBerry questions and woes. Today's question comes from Justin who asks:

I know a few people who have picked up these older BBOS phones recently. Many of them have done so without changing to a BlackBerry-specific data plan with their carrier - One such person was using the SIM from his Android phone, for example, and was having trouble getting the phone to work as he believes it should. As I've got a Q10, and haven't had an active BBOS phone without a BlackBerry plan, I haven't been able to give him the answers he's looking for. What are the BBOS devices capable of doing over Wi-Fi alone, or with a generic/non-BlackBerry data plan? For example, should we still be able to use BBM, App World, and email? Are there any advanced tweaks or workarounds required to make certain features work, or any 3rd-party apps that might make up for the missing functionality?

Hi Justin,

Thank you for sending in this question. It is a very interesting one to say the least. This is what I know based on my experience.

For legacy BlackBerry devices, they do require a BlackBerry specific plan (i.e. BES or BIS) to operate correctly as it was operated through the carrier and through the BlackBerry NOC (Network Operating Center). Your friend who switched from Android and placed his SIM in an older device will find that the regular Non-BlackBerry internet service will not connect to the NOC or to the BIS plan that legacy devices require. Features may be limited as he is using a plan not meant for the device so BlackBerry specific apps such as BBM will not work.

However, speaking from experience, his carrier would be able to detect that the plan he has does not match the device his SIM is in and they may switch the plan over. For example, I once loaned a BlackBerry 8310 to a friend on another network when their non-BlackBerry daily driver stopped working. Within an hour they received a text that their data plan didn't match and that they were required to switch.

As a CrackBerry addict, I never gave away my older devices and have been using them on Wi-Fi only. Here is a list of features that work or do not work on Wi-Fi based on my usage for the past few years. Now please note I used my Bold 9900 and Torch 9800 as references for this guide. These may not work for older devices on OS 4.x or 5.x.

  • BBM - as it requires going through the NOC and a BlackBerry BIS carrier internet plan, it will not work on WiFi alone.
  • BlackBerry World - purchasing and installing apps and games will work on Wi-Fi on a legacy device as I have done so in the past with my BBID. Just make sure they have a BBID on the device is not the same one they have on their current one if they also have a BB10 one as well that is currently activated. You should continue receiving updates as well.
  • Email - if the carrier still supports BIS and the website for managing the account, have them login to their carrier specific website
    • You can locate the appropriate links to them with this post
    • If the email accounts are added here it should continue to be pushed to your legacy device via Wi-Fi. I have been able to send and receive emails from each of the email accounts on my device. However, please note that this requires that you remember your original login when you activated your plan. If forgotten, contacting your carrier's customer support line should be able to assist you with retrieving your information.
    • If this is not an option, then I have been able to access email by going directly through the browser (i.e.
  • Phone calls/SMS/MMS - if you have an active SIM in the device you should be able to receive and send phone calls, texts, and MMS. 
  • 3rd Party Apps - internet dependent apps such as Twitter, Touch, Molome, SocialScope, Slacker Radio, BeWeather, Tune-In Radio etc. should continue working. If you have any games, themes, or applications installed they should not be affected. Facebook may require access to the BlackBerry server as I found it does not work on Wi-Fi. However, I have not tried it with an active SIM that is on a non-BlackBerry plan.
  • Internet - You can browse the internet using Wi-Fi with no issue
  • BlackBerry applications​ - All of the built-in applications such as the calendar, media players, Docs to Go, alarm clock, Password Keeper, etc., should continue working on the device with or without a data plan.

For additional information please refer to these posts:

As you can see, the legacy devices are fairly functional without having the corresponding BlackBerry data plan. Although, the lack of BlackBerry Messenger is quite noticeable.

Now I turn it over to our CrackBerry readers. Do you have any further tips, tricks, or clarifications to help Justin and his friend? Be sure to join the conversation and let us know your thoughts on the matter!

See you next time!

Have a question about BlackBerry etiquette? Need advice on how to cope with your BlackBerry addiction? Dear Berry has you covered and there's no question too big or problem too small. Submit any of your BlackBerry woes by email to or on Twitter @DearBerryCB.

Reader comments

Dear Berry: How can I use a BlackBerry without BIS?


I don't have a BlackBerry data plan on my Q10 and therefore BBM doesn't work. But I added a VPN and now it works :)

Posted from my bangin Q10

Exactly. Aaron is just speaking rubbish and probably doesn't have a BlackBerry 10 smartphone.

Posted via the BlackBerry Q5 using CB10.

Yeah, that's the point of the article. What does and doesn't in a legacy device without bis?

BlackBerry 10 devices don't need a BlackBerry data plan unless your carrier is very confused or you're living in a country that's blocked everything it thinks it can't control.

Guess that partly answers my question. I also have a BlackBerry Data Plan. If I didn't, certain functions e.g. BBM, wouldn't work. Still, what about security? There does not appear to be any separate secure server involved anymore, in the case of BB10 handsets, now that BIS is limited to legacy devices. Does this mean that BB10 devices not on BIS (or BES) are inherently less secure than BBOS devices on BIS?

Posted by the inimitable Z10 handheld system

I switched to a Q10 in April or so right when it launched on T-Mobile. Prior to that, I had a Curve 8900 on BIS. With the launch of BB10, T-Mobile seems to have either disconnected BIS or were giving it for free (unlikely). Either way, I continued to have full BBM access, so I'm not sure why BBM would not work as the article states.

Posted via CB10

the new BB10 devices do not need the BIS to function, it works via your normal data plan be it Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G etc. unlike the legacy devices which need BIS to utilize most of the applications. To be honest BB Legacy without a BIS out of the box is a nightmare. Give a BB to someone who never had a BIS plan before and you will see. Facebook, BB App World, BBM etc will keep asking you to connect to the internet even on Wi-Fi or 3G

Some carriers like Bell Canada require you to have RIM provisioning on the account even for BlackBerry 10 devcies (Which I don't mind as it's useful when switching to BlackBerry 7 and prior). Although it's a moot point since we can change the APN anyways.

Posted via CB10

Your Curve still has old SIM in it and it connects to the network while you also have the Q connected to network?

Poetry in Motion

Thanks for the article. Very helpful. Think I'll try firing up my old 9750 and play around. May be the answer I've been looking for to store my old emails on a phone to have for reference when needed.

Posted via CB10

Interesting issue and raised many times by folks who claim BIS as an advantage that bbos devices (obviously ones utilising a fully activated cell account) have over non-BIS BB10 devices. What I am curious about, if anyone is knowledgeable enough to give a clear answer: how do BB10 handsets function with the same security (or perhaps they don't? ) given that communication data are not being funnelled through a private secure server ( which is what BIS Is after all)?

Posted by the inimitable Z10 handheld system

As far as I know, for bb10 there is no extra security unless you have BES. BBM is the same as using yahoo messenger or skype.

I hate this but... the make asked for it when it chose not to buy BlackBerries :(

Posted via CB10

The CB app doesn't allow to edit your posts :(.

Anyway, I wanted to say that the MARKET chose.

Posted via CB10

On BB10 when the phone is not on a BES10 server the only thing that still has more security than another type of smartphone is BBM as that still uses the Blackberry NOC infrastructure. It is more secure than WhatsApp, iMessge, Kik, Snapchat, We chat etc but it is not beyond the reach of the authorities. When performing a legitimate criminal investigation the authorised can request/order that BlackBerry decrypt the messages concerned as they are all encrypted with the same single key that is known to BlackBerry.

When a BB10 phone is on a BES10 server that creates an encrypted Work container on your phone alongside the usual Personal space. Inside the Work space is your work mailbox and access to your work servers such as file servers and intranets. All communications between the Work space and the outside world are encrypted over the BlackBerry NOC infrastructure using a key that is unique to your BES10 environment that even BlackBerry does not know so even they can't decrypt the data.

Posted via CB10 on Z10 STL100-2 on EE, UK - Activated on BES10.2

Well that is news to me. I keep forgetting about the NOC. Thanks for that info.

Overall, it seems to me that if one were to think very strictly about security, having opted for a BlackBerry and if it was one which would *not* be provisioned with BES, you would really want a legacy BlackBerry device, rather than a BB10 one, right?

In view of the minority who care about such things (me included) I spy some moderate trouble ahead for BlackBerry in marketing their newer operating system...

Posted by the inimitable Z10 handheld system

BBM works perfectly fine on the Z10 without any sim card inserted, just connected to wi-fi. If NOC is something that is related to the carrier infrastructure, how do BBM packets go from my wifi router and ISP to the mobile carrier and NOC?

The NOC can be accessed via traditional BIS or BES network, or just over the internet.

The difference is that on the older non-BlackBerry 10 devices, the ONLY way you could access the NOC was via a BIS or BES link. That is why BBM doesn't work over WiFi on the legacy devices the author describes.

BBM works over WiFi just fine on BB10 devices because they unlinked the BIS/BES requirement to access the BlackBerry NOC. If you see the BlackBerry logo at the top right of your screen, you have an active connection to the NOC.

BBOS requires an bis or bes service.
The newer BBOS10 phones do not need this anymore, they connect like all other phones do.

Posted via CB10

Does that mean My old bold 9700 with APN has better security than BB10 which connects as any other Phone? My old carrier, Vodafone supported BlackBerry in Pre-Paid Contracts, and still is.As far aß i know the only one here in Germany. O2,eplus,tmobile, all Not supporting BlackBerry in Pre-Paid here.You have to makes 2 year Contracts.

BIS traffic shared a common encryption key across all subscribers. The situation for BBM remains the same for BlackBerry OS 10 users but their email is not encrypted between your smartphone and the BlackBerry NOC anymore. Basically, BIS users never had private encryption unless activated on BES Express. If you need encryption you'll need a generic data plan and a smartphone activated on BES 10. However, even hosted BES 10 does not prevent the service provider from handing over your unencrypted messages to the authorities.

Posted via the BlackBerry Q5 using CB10.

There was a recent post on the CrackBerry forums of someone with the opposite problem. They have BIS provisioned on there account and is using it on a BB10 phone. This person is unable to access certain data services except BBM. (I don't know if BBWorld, Protect, PrintToGo and other services worked). I and one other member replied thinking they may need to remove BIS from their account because the carrier may be directing ALL data to BIS which would not know what to do with Email, Web, WhatsApp, etc...

Bell Canada still requires their users to have a BlackBerry specific plan even for bb10 devices

For instance, I lent my old Z10 to a friend (I now have a z30,which is absolutely incredible)

They put their iPhone 4s sim into it and it would not do data

I called Bell and they said she needed to switch to a BlackBerry plan. I told him that was BS, since the new bb10...blah blah

Anyway he argues nope, need to switch.

So, I changed the apn to

And now everything works fine without changing her plan

... I just hope she doesn't get any crazy charges? can anyone confirm this one way or another?

Posted via CB10

I agree with you that there shouldn't be any BlackBerry plans now with BB10s but I think the cariers indeed do something different when you have even a BB10.

Regarding your change in settings, I have no idea on what the outcome will be for the bill. good idea although :)

Posted via CB10

While I was backing up and security wiping my Z10 I fired up my old torch 9800 and BBM worked just fine, as did my pop email coming into it just on wifi. I did not activate it on the cell network just used it for a few hours while my phone did it's thing. I am with Telus

Posted via CB10

If they are locked into a contract, I would suggest to switch to a  specific plan, if not, there are carriers that use the T-mo network, but only charge 50 a month for  if you BYOD(bring your own device) hope this helps.

Vienna's original BlackBerry Abuser.

Using a BBOS device without a BIS/BES dataplan is a pain in the ass. I've tried this with a Curve 8900 (OS 5), and it was really terrible to get stuff working. Even the built-in browser didn't work. After a long and tedious search, I found out that you can restore some modiified service books to the device, over BlackBerry Desktop Software, and that enables some extra features. But all in all, I wouldn't recommend this. In stead, I'd suggest that you look for a cheap Z10 of Q5 and dump the BBOS phone.

Besides Vodafone also Simplytel (O2 network) offers a Blackberry data plan for pre-paid cards here in Germany.

Posted via my Z10

Whatsapp works for me when I switch my SIM over to my 9900 from the non-BIS Z10. But sometimes it just stops sending messages. A battery pull fixes that problem for a short while.


Posted via CB10

Bb10 devices don't need a data plan, bbos devices do! Just change to bb10 :)

C0038297E Quote of the Day (BBM Channel)

Currently I am lending my old Bold9900 to a friend. I fired it up with my sim and then set everything up under her accounts and requested service books. She doesn't have BIS on her Rogers plan, or even data. However BBM works for her all the time, even off of wifi.

I'm not exactly sure how this works as I don't have BIS on my sim either as I'm using a Z30 and a Z10 now.

Either way, we lucked out and it seems as if there are ways to get BBM functioning without BIS.

Posted via CB10

Do not agree with the BBM thing, got upgraded to BB10 earlier in the year and gave my old 8520 to my brother and he's using our wi-fi network and it's working perfectly, much like when I was using it with a BIS plan. Maybe this only works in South Africa. . . who knows-_-

Posted via CB10

It's carrier specific now even for BBOS, my wife has my old bold 9900 and no data plan at all. T-Mobile made a change within the last year that allows her to use bbm even when not connected to wifi, whereas before they made a change she could not even if on wifi. So you see, there are lots of factors that determine usability .

Posted via CB10

No email is secure unless you run it through a secure encrypted network. The bes10 does that. You must run on an ssl to have at lease some type of security. If you don't your emails can be intercepted.

Posted via CB10

I see from some of the comments there's obviously still a lot of confusion about the new BB10 devices. I still know people who buy and sell phones who remind customers of the need for a 'special' data plan for all Blackberries, even BB10 devices. They seem unaware that the new devices operate much like an Android device, and need no special plan.

I have a question, I was going to take it to the forums but this seems like a good place to ask it.

I used to have a 9900 and I got my email for three accounts. I switched over to a Q10 and can only setup my account for two of them. I had the same hosting package with the domain in question before switching phones. In the settings, I think I can't setup the outgoing mail port. In the host's FAQ, it says if I have a free account I need to input my local ISP's details in for things to work. I've come to the conclusion that BIS was my ISP before on the 9900 and that's why it's not working now.

Does that make sense to anyone? If that's the case, I'll try to find a way to get my emails out. Thanks in advance.

Posted via CB10

Had similar problem. Switched service providers and my one mail account needs the smtp settings of that service provider to work. Tried installing service provider Sim, set the settings and then swop. Should still work on wifi after that.

Posted via CB10 from my Awesome Hub enabled Z10

Hi guys, FYI I temporary put the T-Mobile sim that was in my Windows phone into my fantastic z30 (100-5 bought unlocked from GSM Nations) and everything works just fine. Eventually, I will officially "register" the BlackBerry z30 with T-Mobile and see what they say.
I also knew that BB10 did not need the special BlackBerry plan any longer. However, I also continue reading that BlackBerry is supposed to be more secure than the other smart phones. It just occurred to me that this increased security could be related to the "balance" feature, which allows to dedicate a portion of the BlackBerry exclusively to business/work. My understanding is that those using the phone via an Enterprise account will have the Enterprise account set up in this partition.
I set up the BlackBerry Balance by accident (meaning I do not remember what I did to have the option of doing so). I plan to use my z30 outside of my employer enterprise BUT I also plan to use the balance partition for my own independent small business. So, I will update this post after I "activate" the z30 on t-Mobile and after I start using the balance partition.

Could someone provide me with the info or the trend where I can find the info: how/from where can I send feedback to BlackBerry Ltd? Thx.

From my BlackBerry z30
(previous most recent BB: Torch 9800)

Yeah it is possible to use your blackberry device with the BIS but have only been able to use that only on my Q10 and Z10, it's connected to wifi and works really good. If you are out of wifi zone I bet you need to subscribe or turn on your mobile data without subscription, you will be charged based on your service provider. And another option is if you have another phone you subscribe to, you can easily make a wifi Host for you BlackBerry and all will be good.

Posted via CB10

When my carrier's IT department accidentally deactivated my BIS feature, my 9900 only had the WAP provisioning, but I was able to access the web, use tune-in, ubersocial and a few others, but not blackberry world, official facebook/twitter applications, BBM OR e-mail.

A quick call to wind or a PM via their facebook page, it was reactivated within 5 minutes again. I still switch to my bold when the Q10 battery hits rock-bottom. :)

Posted via CB10

I work dog rescue I need app I funface but know not avail,i have the z10 and pretty much phone illiterate now someone told me that android apps can be downloaded I don't know how,please help

Posted via CB10

I've got a regular Swisscom (switzerland) data plan. Everything works on my Q10. No BIS option necessary.

Posted via CB10

why Rim treat their legacy device users even inferior to ios and adrian user? only because they have paid money? you know they would rather leave BB than buy a new BB 10 device!

Posted via CB10

I'm not sure what you mean. Essentially, if you have a legacy device you still need a bis plan. This gives a little bit more security and compressed data keeping your usage down.
Bb10 phone are just the same as any other phones out there and you can use any data plan. They're just a consumer phone. The features you got with bis is now reserved for bes customers. Bis options are still available and will be for a while, legacy devices is still a very strong side of BlackBerry market.
You can also request that you stay on bis, I suppose it's up to your carrier.
I switch between my 9800 and z10. 02 put me back on bis so I could do this which also works fine on the z10

Posted via CB10

My sister uses an open Z10 for private, no BES. BBM works odd. She can do everything on Wi-Fi (messaging, voice, video calls) but no messaging on 3G. Voice and Video calls works fine. She is with tele.ring / T-Mobile here in Austria. Any ideas? Change APN?
Please help - thanks.

Posted via CB10

I have the micro-sim in my bb10 phone and it is active.

Obviously, I can't take the micro-sim out of my bb10 to put it in my legacy device because it requires a non micro sim. In fact it still has a SIM card in it. The legacy device works to browse internet on wi-fi. Twitter also works. Since it can't get a network signal because the SIM isn't provisioned it can't receive data (bbm), phone calls, texts.

Can I have two different SIM cards activated at same time (micro on bb10, regular on legacy) without having to pay to add another line as long as no phone number is associated with it?

Poetry in Motion

BBRYed: there's no such thing as an activated SIM with no number, or 2 SIMs sharing a single number. However you could get or make an adapter to let you slide your micro-SIM into your legacy device. I've done that to share a micro-SIM between my Z10 and my old Torch 9810, and have been careful and lucky so far. Avoid the cheap plastic adapters that add thickness (with a solid back): the combination will probably jam in your device and wreck it. I've been successful by using a $10 Noosy SIM -> Micro SIM cutter to cut an old legacy SIM, then I use the leftover outer part as a holder/adapter to put my active micro-SIM into my Torch. If you do this, be _really_ careful to make the assembly flat and smooth so you won't ruin the contacts in your phone when inserting or removing the combined unit. You may have to file the cut inside edges of the old SIM if the hole is too tight, to avoid the micro-SIM arching and popping up and creating hang-up points. I recommend not trying use use tape or anything that adds thickness to hold them together. If it seems to jam or get stuck, I recommend not proceeding. The other think you could do is to enable Mobile Hotspot on your Z10 (if your plan includes this), and share your connection over WiFi to your legacy BBOS device. But as others have written, not all services and apps will work fully (or at all) with no BIS or only on WiFi.

I have a Q10 that I love!!!!

I also have an OS7 9930 that I use as a media player only. I have a 32G card in it and I have tons of music and about 20 movies.

It works on WiFi only and I can surf the web. I can use BlackBerry App World as I set it up with another email address after a Security wipe.

Posted via CB10

I just had to change my contract. I opted to go for a cheaper contract and therefore lost my BIS. As I love the BB phone in itself I have opted to keep the phone. Everything works on the phone (internet, mail and whatsapp) except for BBM. I know that you can get BBM for iphone and andriod so therefore the argument cannot be made that you need BIS to have BBM. So how can I get BBM to work again?


I had BIS package when i used 9900. When i switched to z30, i removed BIS from my plan and it works great until i lost z30 almost 2 monts ago. Swicth back to my old 9900, and can use opera, whatsapp but no bbm & email. However, sometimes, the internet not working. Need to restart. Any reason why?


I use blackberry curve 9320. With idea network. On my devise internet is properly working on blackberry browser without BIS service. Once I restart mobile whatsapp and all other application will work for 4 to 5 hours. But after that I have to restart again. So please help me for using proper internet.

Thank You so much in advance