According to BBC News…Blackberry mobile phone services will soon be available to individual customers in China for the first time.

The handheld devices, made by Canadian company Research In Motion, have previously only been available in China to employees of a few major companies.

Small firms Workers will also now be able to access a Blackberry – long a mainstay of Western business users.

The Chinese market is expanding fast, and Blackberry’s arch rival, the iPhone, is making inroads there.

Chine country already has 650 million mobile subscribers. Research In Motion will provide its Blackberry device in partnership with China Mobile, which dominates the market with 513 million subscribers.

It, and two other main carriers, were recently assigned third generation mobile phone licences, which allow high-speed internet browsing – something that was first offered in Japan 10 years ago.

Blackberry has been operating in China since 2006. But although the devices were restricted to employees of large organisations, the country also has a huge semi-legal “grey market” for smartphones such as the Blackberry and Apple iPhone, in which smartphones are brought in from places such as Hong Kong.

China Unicom, the country’s number two mobile carrier, has already begun to sell Apple’s iPhone in China.

China Telecom is reportedly aiming to sell BlackBerry and Palm smartphones by early next year. No price has yet been suggested.

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