x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Illegal dishes remain on Abu Dhabi’s rooftops

These dishes are used in conjunction with set-top boxes and decoders – some of which are imported from India and are illegal.

Illegal satellite dishes on rooftops of Khalidiya buildings in Abu Dhabi. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Illegal satellite dishes on rooftops of Khalidiya buildings in Abu Dhabi. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

ABU DHABI // Thousands of illegal TV satellite dishes remain on the city’s rooftops, with a rule limiting the number to four for each building being flagrantly ignored.

In 2012 the municipality issued a rule stating no more than four dishes could be installed on the roofs of one building.

Many of the dishes have been connected to set-top boxes and decoders receiving illegal services from overseas in what has become a common trade.

TV dealers on the capital’s Electra Street admit they connect set-top boxes and decoders directly to Indian satellite broadcast services such as Dish TV and Airtel, which is much cheaper than through local providers such as Etisalat.

They also instal the dishes, even if there are already four on the roof and balconies of a building.

The equipment is imported illicitly by traders or brought in by residents returning from holiday.

An Indian resident who lives in Khalidiya admitted he had brought a set-top box and decoder back from a visit home.

“The television services here are very expensive so we opt for Indian decoders,” he said. “They are very affordable and we get all of our favourite channels.

“We pay 400 Indian rupees (Dh24) a month but if we want to subscribe to a similar package in the UAE we have to cough up over Dh200.

“We ask our relatives back home to refill it for another six months.”

Residents are also able to renew their subscription in India online with credit cards.

Dish TV is one of the most popular services, giving viewers access to more than 200 channels at a much cheaper rate than if they took out a subscription with a UAE provider.

“We instal Dish and Airtel TV services at Dh700 with a three-month free viewing card,” said one of the dealers on Electra Street.

“And if you want to recharge your viewing card, we can do that with Dh220 for six months.

“We buy them from Dubai. We are small dealers here but the big dealers in Dubai import them in their thousands and sell to us.”

Another dealer said: “We can fix it at Dh600, including the antenna, and then charge for six months at Dh220. We also give three months’ free viewing.” The services are also available in Dubai at similar prices, residents say.

A third dealer in Electra Street was offering installation at Dh550 with three months of free viewing, but Dh270 for another six months.

A resident of Al Zahiyah said many of the TV decoders were brought from India in luggage.

When asked why they are not detected at immigration, he said: “We just keep them in our luggage and bring them. I don’t think bringing one is a problem.

“We do hear about the municipal warnings and sometimes they pasted warnings on the building lobby but we never received any fines.”

Most new buildings have centralised satellite systems but the use of more than four on buildings across the city has persisted.

The municipality could not be reached for comment on the issue this week.