Over the Air (OTA) and Firmware Over the Air (FOTA) Updates for BlackBerry Storm and Other Feature Phones

Storm_sideways.jpgYou may see these terms in forums, OTA  (Over-the-Air) or FOTA and are wondering what they mean in regards to the BlackBerry Storm update which Verizon calls an upgrade.

The ability to update phones, smartphones and BlackBerries over the air is fairly recent. Verizon started pushing Firmware Over the Air (FOTA) updates in October of last year, using backhaul provided by Innopath, a global device management solutions provider.

Innopath has deliverd FOTA for hundreds of thousand of feature phones for Verizon, says David Ginsburg, Vice President of Markeing for Innopath. 

When we found that out, we figured that we could find out exactly how this BlackBerry Storm FOTA works from him. However, RIM has it's own propriety system for the Over the Air updates which does not support the OMA-DM (Open Mobile Alliance Device Management) format that Innopath uses.

Ginsburg was nice enough to walk us through the process and make some suggestions on how the BlackBerry Storm Over the AIr Firmware update might work.

First off, data and voice are separate spectrum.  Don't worry that you'll in the middle of aan important call and get cut off for FOTA. When the update is pushed to a BlackBerry it will not interfere with voice calls.  Typically, the user receives some kind of notice and is asked to reboot or reset the device in order for the update to take effect.  When the BlackBerry restarts it may take a few minutes to process the update.

For the BlackBerry Storm there's a Software Update icon on the application screen that will have a star next to.  After selecting the icon, you can the updates that are available like in the Desktop Manger.

To view the chart below larger, please click on it.High-level Architecture of FOTA and InnoPath Solution.jpg

"When a carrier like Verizon rolls out at an update it is done in a series campaign," said Ginsburg. 

Not every Verizon BlackBerry Storm owner will get  FOTA updates at once. When the servers push out FOTA , it is a serial process, sent in a series over time. BlackBerries may be turned off, out of range, or not in a area that receives data. The entire process to push to updates may take days or up to a week, depending on how many devices are to be updated.

Ginsburg likens FOTA to Widnows Updates, which people are familiar with accepting, he adivses, "Don't panic.  Accept the update, a firmware update is something you want to accept."

From his experience working with Verizon, he expects the update to be very useful

Nowadays, many smartphone users never tether their devices and are used to getting email, calendars and other updates over the air.  FOTA is easier than hooking up cables to a computer and can save consumers time.

If you are in no hurry for the BlackBerry Storm update, you may decide to wait for the Firmware Over the Air update as opposed the web-based or desktop manager solutions.


After Mr. Ginsburg was interviewed, we discovered exactly what the update fixes.

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