UPC Romania

For quite some time now, NTL/UPC have had a thorn stuck in their foot. That thorn is something commonly known as a “dodgy box” or the official name “starview box” / “The box”.

The dodgy box allows non technical home users hook on to a basic NTL / UPC analog line and receive digitial TV including fully subscription based channels – free of charge.

In fairness to NTL, they’ve tried everything they can to beat these boxes. From sending out sensational rumours (i.e. a rumour that viruses could be sent down the line to these boxes) to constantly disrupting the service by changing the encryption code. Although I’m sure it suceeded in removing the “plug n play” type users, who don’t understand why their TV doesn’t work when it’s unplugged, it certainly hasn’t deterred those who know what they are doing.

So how can they really beat these rogue thieves from stealing their service? Well I think it’s quite simple and they seem to be making a step towards this.

Personally, if I think a service is good enough, I don’t mind paying extra for value. Recently NTL/UPC sent me a letter stating that they were upgrading all digital customers in my area to facilitate the new services they have coming online. In cable forums across the UK and Ireland, the rumour is that they are doing this so that they can start using a new encyption that will make the majority of these dodgy boxes as useful as a doorstop.

In the letter they mentioned that they were offering a new “DVR service”. This is NTL/UPC’s attempt at competing against the might Sky’s – SKy Plus, that allows you to pause and record live TV. Unlike Sky, they were offering this new service at only €5 per month, with no charge for the upgraded device. I thought, why not? €5, it’s well worth it.

So it got me thinking of what else they could offer:

  1. Improved DVR service
    Although the new service is much welcomed, it’s not a patch on Sky Plus. The interface is slow and doesn’t allow certain things like Sky Plus does.
  2. More Channels
    I think they could easily offer more channels to their package. Just by adding free-to-air channels, surely there’s little if any cost for them to do this. They recently removed my beloved Scuzz music channel without any notice – this was a free to air channel, that I’m sure they weren’t paying for.
  3. A True Digital Service
    It’s taken a while for NTL to offer even the basic pause live TV function, but some interactive functions would be really nice, like shopping online etc. Or even just the ability to “click the red button” ;)
  4. Interactive Gaming
    Not something I’d personally use that often, but a drawer none the less.
  5. Cheaper Price
    Obviously I’m going to say this, but the price comparison between NTL/UPC and Sky is just non existent. Sky just offer a greater package, even though they are slightly more expensive. This could be a huge turning point for People to use NTL / UPC over Sky.

The DVR is a step in the right direction, but I know they could offer a lot more.

In fact, a quick review on the DVR system isn’t very impressive. It’s apparently a Thomson 6000 series device. The EPG is slow to load and quite finicky. Other pet hates are the fact that you can’t record from an external device, even though it allows you to channel it through it.

Anyway, I’m just giving out now ;)

All in all – if there was an improved, value for money service on the table, I believe people wouldn’t be bothered trying to hack the network with these dodgy boxes.

Updating a starview box, if you don’t have any friends to do it, can cost anything from €10 – €50. Why would they bother with the constant updates when you have a cheap, better alternative?

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