Legal set-top boxes fly off the shelves at Sim Lim Square

A set-top box set is pictured at a shop in Sim Lim Square. ― Picture by Nuria Ling/TODAY
A set-top box set is pictured at a shop in Sim Lim Square. ― Picture by Nuria Ling/TODAY

SINGAPORE, Dec 6 — For S$99 (RM298), consumers in Singapore can get their hands on set-top boxes that will enable them to stream copyrighted programmes such as Game of Thrones or the latest Korean dramas without having to pay for the content.

Savvy salesmen at electronics mall Sim Lim Square expertly demonstrate how easy it is to set up and access programmes on the set-top boxes.

A day after the Coalition Against Piracy — whose members include major entertainment companies — said the devices facilitate “rampant” piracy in Singapore, TODAY visited the mall yesterday (December 5) and found shops on all six floors selling the set-top boxes.

Unlike earlier iterations that decoded broadcasts and have been forbidden under the Broadcasting Act, the devices make use of apps to access copyrighted content.

All buyers have to do is hook the device to a television set using a HDMI cable, connect the device to the Internet through Wifi or a LAN cable.

Of the 13 brands TODAY came across at Sim Lim Square, 11 were marketed as local brands or “designed in Singapore”. Foreign brands on sale were XiaoMi from China and Minix from Hong Kong.

An app on “local brand” Micox, for instance, had “Netflix list”, “Amazon list” and “YouTube Red List” in its extensive catalogue, allowing users to tune in to programmes they would otherwise have to pay more than S$10 a month to access.

The salesmen were quick to assure buyers that the devices are legal. “It’s not illegal because (the content is) found on applications Even if they want to catch someone, they can’t be caught. The server is not mine. I don’t even know who owns the server. They are very secretive,” one of them said.

The set-top boxes have been around for at least seven years, they said.

The devices are also sold in at least two shops in Geylang and on e-commerce sites such as Qoo10 and Lazada.

As a gauge of their popularity, a “local brand” called Synnex has over 57,000 followers on its Facebook page and a post on its set-top box promotion garnered more than 21,000 likes, 3,700 shares and 1,500 comments.

Vendors come up with new models every year that boast faster processing speed and memory space in tandem with Android operating system upgrades, a salesperson said.

Customers pay a premium for set-top boxes with apps from sources that are more trusted and do not hang or lag. A high-end model called the Action AS-19pro II has an Octa-Core processor, 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM, for instance. It costs S$299 and the salesperson said his company has already sold 500 units since its launch two weeks ago.

“Assembled in Singapore. Parts from China,” he added. “You can watch all the ‘live’ programmes, movies, TV series, for free All apps are installed already. Just plug and play.” ― TODAY

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