A complaint from pay-TV provider SingTel has thrown the issue of bootleg cable TV set-top boxes back into the spotlight.
Two weeks after the telco began sharing its English Premier League (EPL) broadcasts with rival StarHub under the Media Development Authority's (MDA) cross-carriage rule, it is crying foul that owners of bootleg set-top boxes who have been able to access StarHub content can now also access EPL matches without paying subscription fees.
In a statement yesterday, SingTel, which claims that its own mioTV boxes are pirate-proof, said it is "concerned" as "our EPL content is now carried on StarHub's platform".
"We have always known that these boxes exist, but they were not an issue for us as it was not previously possible to access mioTV content from an unofficial device," a SingTel spokesman told The Straits Times.
SingTel's mioTV service uses Internet Protocol television (IPTV) technology and requires a subscriber's box to be authenticated by the network before content is streamed across.
StarHub's system works differently - its signals are encrypted and broadcast instead, which means illegal boxes can simply decode StarHub's signals and allow users to view all 100- plus channels without having to pay a monthly subscription in some instances. The decoders sold online cost between $150 and $250.
In 2010, StarHub estimated that there were 5,400 illegal users then, which amounted to a $2.6 million loss for the company.
While there are no latest figures, anecdotal evidence has shown that more of such devices are being sold, with many sellers promoting them through fliers in mailboxes.