Illicit streaming highlights cost of legal viewing for Cypriot consumers

WHEN hundreds of television sets in Cyprus went blank, people first wondered what it was that went wrong. Perhaps they checked their innocuous device that so cheaply allowed them to view hundreds of channels they technically hadn’t paid for.

 

Others had already seen the news on January 9 that combined efforts between authorities in Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria and the Netherlands had shut down an illegal IPTV (internet protocol television) stream and realised the game was up.

This concerns none other than the infamous set-top TV boxes ‘unlocked’ to stream subscription content at almost no cost, that have now been rendered useless.

Although initial reports outlined this was a Dreambox network that had been clamped down on, police specified that the majority of cases in Cyprus concern android boxes.

“The Dreambox is an older technology that uses satellite, whereas android boxes use internet,” deputy police spokesman Stelios Stylianou told the Sunday Mail.

Providers illegally transmitted over 1,000 cable channels such as Nova, Sky Cinema, Sky Sports and Bein Sports, to more than half a million subscribers in Europe by preloading all the channels on the device.

Prices ranged from as little as €10 to €20 per month, a far cry from Cyta’s package for instance, which offers just over 80 channels for €45 or €54 per month for personal use, depending if someone uses the telecoms internet service or not.

In Cyprus, Cyta has located around 500 persons who have been using illegal devices that will be called to provide statements to police, Stylianou said.

It is still not clear how many of these were using the boxes for personal use in their homes and how many for commercial, in cafes and bars, he added.

Those who run businesses such as pubs, cafeterias or bars who stream TV – primary football games, for their customers have to dig much deeper in their pocket to pay a legal subscription.

Cyta, for instance charges €178 per month for one set top box for commercial use. Two devices push up the cost to €275 per month and three costs €317 monthly.

In addition to this, a number of telecoms companies on the island have exclusive broadcasting rights to different football team matches, costing firms millions of euro per year, that are then passed on to consumers through subscriptions, director at Cyprus’ telecommunications regulatory authority Neophytos Papadopoulos told the Sunday Mail.

This means establishments must pay a hefty sum of money to different companies such as Cyta and Primetel if they want to showcase all local games.

Android boxes did not stream Cypriot games so were primarily used by businesses for international football such premier league.

One bar manager who spoke to the Sunday Mail on condition of anonymity said he used the device on top of his subscription for an extra TV.

“I pay €600 a month for Cytavision and Primetel because it’s for public viewing.”

This is for two Cyta set-top boxes and one for Primetel. 

“I used the android box as a spare so I could have different games on different TV screens…the companies don’t do anything about the prices [to make them more attractive],” he said.

According to Papadopoulos “it appears this creates arbitrary opportunities. Subscription fees are expensive, because of the exclusive rights fees demanded by football teams and paid by telecom companies and the small Cyprus market. If they weren’t, then most probably this wouldn’t be an issue.”

“Consider for instance, the potential temptation of sports bar owners that currently pay for Cyta and Primetel subscriptions (by 2020 Cablenet will also have exclusive rights to broadcasting local football matches) hundreds of euros per month vs the possibility to drastically reduce this expense by alternative means.”

Spokesman for state owned telecom Cyta, Lefteris Christou told the Sunday Mail the company’s top priority was fighting piracy.

“We reduced prices for Cytavision a year and a half ago (from €56 per month to €45) and are constantly taking action for better prices.”

Realistically however, the huge difference in prices between legal and illegal streaming makes competition very difficult.

In the past week since the clampdown on the illegal network, Cyta has seen an increase in the number of paid subscriptions from both personal and business users, Christou said.

Installation for the devices, usually at €71, will be free for the next month, provided users sign up to a one-year contract.

Nonetheless, not everyone is too keen to turn to coughing up the sum of money for only a sliver of the channels they were used to having with their android box.

“I was so depressed when I realised what happened. Do you know how nice it was to be able to think, ‘hmm what do I feel like watching now? A French film, a series, an American film? And just pressing a button to watch it?’

“Now I’m stuck watching ‘O adinamos krikos’ (the weakest link) on the state broadcaster,” one disgruntled user said.

Despite missing his former comforts though, he has no intention of paying a subscription to any of the Cypriot telecoms companies.

“I think I’m going to sign up to Netflix. It’s €8 per month for one device and €11.99 for four devices.”

For football, he’ll just go to a café for the time being and pay a couple of euros for his Freddo Espresso.

The operation to clampdown on the illegal network has been in the works for almost a whole year in Cyprus.

In February 2017, authorities on the island received a tip from Europol, Stylianou said. Since then a series of investigations have been carried out that led to the eventual arrest of four people in Cyprus.

The illegal network was discovered by Nova Greece and later verified by Cyta as a piracy network existing in Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria and the Netherlands. Over 100 servers were seized and close to 20 raids were carried out.

Three men in Cyprus, aged 53, 49 and 44 were arrested on January 9 and a subsequent arrest of a 42-year-old in Larnaca took place on January 12.

On Thursday, Larnaca district court remanded the 53 and 49-year-olds from Limassol for a further five days while the 44-year-old from Larnaca was released.

The alleged mastermind, a 47-year-old from Greece, was also arrested in Bulgaria last week while reports say nine suspects were also reportedly arrested in the Netherlands.

One source told the Sunday Mail that they’re not too worried. “This has happened before. I’ve had three devices over the years because there would be a clampdown, screen would go black and then something else would come up on the market.”

Source: CyprusMail

Amazon’s automated grocery store of the future opens Monday

Amazon.com Inc will open its checkout-free grocery store to the public on Monday after more than a year of testing, the company said, moving forward on an experiment that could dramatically alter brick-and-mortar retail.

The Seattle store, known as Amazon Go, relies on cameras and sensors to track what shoppers remove from the shelves, and what they put back. Cash registers and checkout lines become superfluous – customers are billed after leaving the store using credit cards on file.

For grocers, the store’s opening heralds another potential disruption at the hands of the world’s largest online retailer, which bought high-end supermarket chain Whole Foods Market last year for $13.7 billion. Long lines can deter shoppers, so a company that figures out how to eradicate wait times will have an advantage.

Amazon did not discuss if or when it will add more Go locations, and reiterated it has no plans to add the technology to the larger and more complex Whole Foods stores.

The convenience-style store opened to Amazon employees on Dec. 5, 2016 in a test phase. At the time, Amazon said it expected members of the public could begin using the store in early 2017.

But there have been challenges, according to a person familiar with the matter. These included correctly identifying shoppers with similar body types, the person said. When children were brought into the store during the trial, they caused havoc by moving items to incorrect places, the person added.

Gianna Puerini, vice president of Amazon Go, said in an interview that the store worked very well throughout the test phase, thanks to four years of prior legwork.

“This technology didn’t exist,” Puerini said, walking through the Seattle store. “It was really advancing the state of the art of computer vision and machine learning.”

“If you look at these products, you can see they’re super similar,” she said of two near-identical Starbucks drinks next to each other on a shelf. One had light cream and the other had regular, and Amazon’s technology learned to tell them apart.

HOW IT WORKS

The 1800-square-foot (167-square-meter) store is located in an Amazon office building. To start shopping, customers must scan an Amazon Go smartphone app and pass through a gated turnstile.

Ready-to-eat lunch items greet shoppers when they enter. Deeper into the store, shoppers can find a small selection of grocery items, including meats and meal kits. An Amazon employee checks IDs in the store’s wine and beer section.

Sleek black cameras monitoring from above and weight sensors in the shelves help Amazon determine exactly what people take.

If someone passes back through the gates with an item, his or her associated account is charged. If a shopper puts an item back on the shelf, Amazon removes it from his or her virtual cart.

Much of the store will feel familiar to shoppers, aside from the check-out process. Amazon, famous for dynamic pricing online, has printed price tags just as traditional brick-and-mortar stores do.

Source: CyprusMail

Cut internet cables slow down service

Some internet users in Cyprus were faced with slower internet on Friday after two underground cables were cut a day earlier.

Providers were quick to move towards fixing the problem when the Alexander and Hawk cable systems were cut.

“This is a severe problem and affects the connection between Cyprus and abroad,” Cablenet said in a statement.

This affected internet connection speed but efforts were being taken to restore the issue by the day’s end, Cablenet added.

A spokesperson said there was nothing malicious about the developments and such things can happen.

Spokesman for Cyta, Lefteris Christou confirmed there was a problem with the Alexandros cable system but Cyta was using alternative routes.

“To Cyta, reliability is of utmost importance and all important networks have alternative routes. Therefore our customers have not been affected.”

Primetel echoed Cyta, saying there was a problem they were working on resolving but customers had not been affected as they were using alternative routes.

MTN was not immediately available for comment.

 

Applications for registration of new companies increase

The number of applications for the registration of new companies in Cyprus increased for the fourth consecutive year in 2017, according to the Department of the Registrar of Companies and Official Receiver.


Specifically, applications rose by 0.93% in 2017, reaching 13,743 compared to 13,616 in 2016. In 2015, the number of applications reached 11,306, in 2014 they were 11,253 and in 2013 they were 10,927.
 
Despite the increases over the past four years, the number of applications remains at one of the lowest levels recorded before the financial crisis of 2013, as in 2012 they were 18,000 and in 2011 they were 19,000.
 
The total of registered companies reached the highest level of a single year in 2017, at 217,893, compared to 208,493 in 2016, recording an increase of 4.51%.
 
Furthermore, new registrations for the whole year reached 13,672, which is the highest number since 2013.
 
The registration of foreign companies reached 87 in 2017, which is also the highest number since 2013.
 
In 2017, the number of companies and persons filing for bankruptcy was 92 and 37, respectively.
 
Furthermore, voluntary liquidations reached 2,497 in 2017, recording a historic high. Up until 2011, voluntary liquidations remained under a thousand.

 

Source: Stockwatch

Bitcoin Watchers Are Blaming the Slump on the Moon(Video)

If regulatory concerns aren’t enough to explain Bitcoin’s 50 percent slump from its record high reached last month, how about blaming it on the moon? The Lunar New Year, which marks the first day of the year in the Chinese calendar, is being cited by some as contributing to Bitcoin’s slump as Asian traders cash out their cryptocurrencies to travel and buy gifts for the holiday that starts Feb. 16 this year.

The festivity is celebrated not just in China, but in other Asian countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea and Thailand "The January drop is a recurring theme in cryptocurrencies as people celebrating the Chinese New Year, aka Lunar New Year, exchange their crypto for fiat currency," said Alexander Wallin, chief executive officer of trading social network SprinkleBit in New York. "The timing is about four to six weeks before the lunar year, when most people make their travel arrangements and start buying presents. Bitcoin had a similar decline at the beginning of 2017, when it slumped from a high of $1,162 to a low of $752 in January, similar to what happened in the first month of the prior year. In 2017, the total cryptocurrency market peaked on Jan. 5 at $22 billion, only to bottom out a week later at about $14 billion, Joe DiPasquale, who manages cryptocurrency fund of funds BitBull Capital, wrote in a report.

The rebound back to the previous peak concluded in mid-February of 2017. While Chinese yuan and Korean won used to account for most Bitcoin trading volume, regulatory crackdowns in those nations have reduced their significance -- and trading in U.S. dollars and Japanese yen now account for well over half of the volume. But that’s little comfort to Bitcoin investors who have seen prices tumble this year after the cryptocurrency surged 1,400 percent last year.

So much for Bitcoin shooting to the moon. 

 

Source:Bloomberg

Government trying to expedite title deeds problems’

The government is trying to expedite a bill hoping to resolve the “very important” title deeds issue, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said on Tuesday as he cautioned that it was a complex legal issue that had to be examined thoroughly.

Petrides was responding to a written question by Akel MP Giorgos Loucaides regarding the government’s intentions on the matter.

In a bid to sort out the so-called trapped property buyers mess, parliament in 2015 passed a government bill granting the head of the land registry the authority to exempt, eliminate, transfer and cancel mortgages and or other encumbrances, depending on the case and under certain conditions.

The law sought to resolve the problems created by the failure to issue title deeds to people who had paid for their property, either because the property was mortgaged by the developer, or the state could not go ahead with the transfer because of outstanding taxes.

Since developers’ land and buildings were counted as assets that need to be offset against their debt to banks, this gave lenders a claim on people’s properties that had been mortgaged by developers.

However, following a string of court decisions in cases where banks objected to the law, the land registry suspended procedures, as authorities contemplated their next move.

The attorney-general subsequently instructed the departments involved to continue implementing the law while appeals were filed at the supreme court, which will have the final say on the matter.

Some of the court cases have been won by the banks, largely on the grounds that the buyer’s claim on the property infringed on the contract between the bank and the developer.

But in September, the Larnaca district court upheld the 2015 law, allowing trapped property buyers to obtain their title deeds irrespective of the developers’ own commitments to banks.

In his reply, Petrides said despite the matter not being resolved, the ministry had prepared a bill which it sent to the Legal Service for processing last October.

“As it transpired from the differing district court decisions, it is a complicated legal issue and due to this an in-depth study is required,” the minister said.

The bill will be forwarded to the cabinet as soon as it is processed by the state’s lawyers and from there to parliament for voting, he added.

“The interior ministry considers the issue of trapped buyers as very important and the delay in preparing the bill is due precisely to the difficulties cited above,” Petrides said, adding that efforts were being made to expedite the process.

Source: CyprusMail

Tallest hotel in the world set to open in Dubai

The world’s tallest hotel is getting ready to open in Dubai, consisting of a whopping 75 floors and measuring 356 metres in height, as confirmed by the property to Time Out Dubai.

 

The Gevora Hotel, on Sheikh Zayed Road in the Trade Centre area, will contain 528 guest rooms and suites and four restaurants when it opens later this year.

The hotel is set to knock current record holder, Business Bay’s JW Marriott Marquis Dubai off the top spot (literally) by just one metre.

 

To put its huge stature in perspective, Gevora Hotel will be more than three times taller than Big Ben, 56 metres taller than the Eiffel Tower, and around equal to the length of three football pitches.

The developers haven’t scrimped on bedroom size, either. The smallest deluxe rooms measure 46 sq m, with the largest two-bedroom suite measuring a massive 85 sq m.

The new hotel will be a dry one and promises to “boast the best of Middle Eastern hospitality and exclusivity”.

As well as a main pool deck with swimming pool, Jacuzzi and kids’ pool, the health club on the 12th floor includes state-of-the-art facilities and separate ladies’ and men’s gyms for a vigorous workout or a refreshing quick dip.

 

If you’re a bit clueless when it comes to hitting the gym, fully qualified trainers are on hand to show you how it’s done. And when you’ve given your muscles a good work out, you can relax in the sauna and steam room, or better yet head up to the luxury spa on the 71st floor to unwind with your head in the clouds.

 

 

The property is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2018, though the official date is currently up in the air… (get it?)

 

Source:TimeOut Dubai

Building permits up 32% in first 10 months of 2017

The area of construction projects that secured a building permit in January to October last year rose an annual 35 per cent, to 1,129,084 square meters, while their value rose 38 per cent, to €1.3bn, the statistical service said.

The increase was mainly on a 32 per cent annual increase in the construction area of housing projects, to 875,565 square meters, and a 33 per cent rise in their value, to €904m, Cystat said in a statement on its website on Monday.

The permits provide for the construction of 1,949 new detached houses, 26 per cent more compared to January to October 2016, Cystat said. The number of semi-detached houses to be built rose 23 per cent, to 640, and that of residential apartment blocks 82 per cent, to 1,089.

The building permit data shows that the construction area of licenced non-housing projects rose 31 per cent in the first 10 months of 2017, to 217,670 square meters, compared to the respective period of 2016, while their value rose 19 per cent, to €220,766.

Civil engineering projects that received a building permit in January to October rose in terms of construction area 637 per cent, to 35,849 square meters, Cystat said. Their value rose 532 per cent to €102m.

Building permits are a significant economic indicator.

Source: CyprusMail

Cyprus, Israel falling behind Egypt in energy prospects

In the East Med, 2017 was a year during which Israel and Cyprus said a lot but achieved little, while Egypt said less but achieved most.

2017 was a good year for Egypt. It secured a $12 billion loan from the IMF, which led to floatation of the Egyptian pound, adoption of an energy sector reform programme – including liberalisation of the gas industry – and subsidy reductions. These reforms have already benefited the energy sector. Gas production has increased, with the giant 30 trillion cubic feet (tcf) Zohr gas-field becoming operational in December 2017 and already helping to reduce LNG imports by 30 per cent. The first phase of Zohr will be completed during the first half of 2018, adding over 10 billion cubic metres (bcm)/yr to the Egyptian gas grid, rising to about 28 bcm/yr by 2019.

With a number of other, smaller gas-fields, being developed over the same period, Egypt expects to become self-sufficient in gas by the end of 2018, allowing it to phase-out liquified natural gas (LNG) imports and resume LNG exports in the 2019-2020s. This is good news for the country but bad news for Israel and Cyprus that nurture hopes of exporting gas to Egypt.

These developments will make 2018 an even better year for Egypt’s energy sector. Increasing investments, attracted by the reforms and high gas prices, will lead to increased exploration and production activities and more discoveries. EGAS is planning to issue global tenders in 2018 for new Red Sea and western Mediterranean concessions.

In addition, with a new ambitious target to achieve 42 per cent of electricity generation from renewable sources by 2025, including hydro, and with a phase-out of subsidies and higher energy prices starting to impact consumption and bringing it under control, 2018 will be a turning point for Egypt.

The greatest challenge in 2018 will be to implement fully the new gas law and deregulation by completing liberalisation of Egypt’s gas industry, with the potential of creating a freer, more flexible and more efficient gas market. This should support Egypt’s hub aspirations and help attract more investment in a sector that is so crucial to Egypt’s economy.

In contrast, Israel’s sole success in 2017 was to achieve a final investment decision (FID) for Phase 1A of Leviathan, aiming to achieve production by the end of 2019. But even this has its own risks. The deal with the Jordanian National Electric Company (NEPCO), to supply 3 bcm/yr gas over 15 years, is still subject to political risks with resistance to it in Jordan, including from the parliament, still strong. This has been exacerbated by the escalating Turkey-Israel tension following the US announcement to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In addition, most of the secured gas sales agreements are to independent power producers still to be realised.

The lack of export routes and perceived regulatory risks have also affected a successful conclusion to Israel’s first offshore licensing round, launched at the end of 2016, with no participation by major international oil companies. Out of 24 tendered, five blocks were awarded to Energean and one to a group of Indian oil companies led by ONGC. Israel may launch another offshore licensing round in 2018, but unless conditions change it may not fair any better.

Phase 2 of Leviathan depends on securing exports and firm gas sales deals through exports to Turkey, Egypt and Europe. All these options face major political and commercial challenges. Even though a gas pipeline framework deal looked likely to be signed with Turkey, this is now unlikely to happen soon and 2018 will probably prove disappointing for this project. In addition, for commercial reasons, the EastMed gas pipeline to Europe may prove to be a pipedream rather than a pipeline, despite framework agreements signed between Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Italy and support by the European Commission, unless of course it receives a substantial subsidy from the EU. Gas exports to Egypt face commercial and also political challenges.

However, with low prices undercutting Leviathan gas, the development of Tanin and Karish gas-fields in Israel by Energean should achieve FID and proceed successfully to construction in 2018.

Lebanon’s first offshore licensing round produced results with a consortium of Eni, Total and Novatek being awarded blocks 4 and 9. The challenge in 2018 will be the promising block 9 which includes an area disputed by Israel.

Cyprus’ third offshore round was concluded successfully early 2017, with three blocks awarded to Eni, ExxonMobil/Qatar Petroleum and Total. But that was the only success in 2017. Aphrodite gas-field, discovered in 2011, is still looking for buyers for its gas and even though a new drilling round started in 2017, Total’s first well in block 11 turned out to be a dud.

Another disappointing outcome was that the Cyprus problem negotiations collapsed in July 2017 without agreement, despite two years of discussions. Continuation is unclear and will have to wait conclusion of the presidential elections in a few weeks’ time.

However, based on promising results from the assessment of seismic data, drilling started end of December by Eni in block 6. Eni’s plan is to immediately continue drilling in block 3 in 2018. In addition, ExxonMobil may have better chances of success when it drills in block 10 during the second half of 2018. By the end of 2018 Cyprus should know what quantities of gas exist in its licensed blocks. But this will not be without its challenges. Turkey will continue harassment of drilling activities and may increase the ante by drilling in Cyprus EEZ.

But finding gas in the East Med may prove to be easier than selling it. Exporting gas outside the region is still challenged by persistently low global gas prices, expected to stay low for the longer-term as global energy supply continues to outpace demand. The future for East Med gas exports may be through integrated projects to minimise costs, and LNG, and even then it will be challenging.

However, Cyprus should also consider other options, than just exports to utilise its gas. Such options could enable development of Aphrodite to supply gas to the island, and support petrochemical and power generation projects, rather than rely on importing LNG which may prove to be costly. This would require a major change of current thinking that may prove to be a challenge too far in 2018.

Source: CyprusMail

BOC Asset Management launches first mutual fund

Bank of Cyprus (BOC), the island’s largest lender, said that its BOC Asset Management (BOCAM) unit launched operations on December 1, with the introduction of a mutual fund. The BOC European Equity Fund of Funds aims to generate high yields in the long run with the management of investment in mutual funds investing in Europe, mainly through capital gains but also with income, Bank of Cyprus said in an emailed statement on Friday.
BOCAM will actively manage the investment of BOC European Equity Fund of Funds via a thorough and strict selection procedure of mutual investment funds investing in securities, mainly in European capital markets.
The bank added that mutual investment funds are an investment option for both institutional and private investors, are highly regulated and considered an effective asset management tool offering investors ‘considerable advantages’.
These advantages include professional investment and portfolio management, immediate liquidity, optimisation of the return-to-risk ratio via wide diversification, relatively low transaction costs, absence of minimum participation requirements, transparency via the daily publication of prices and yields and the daily publication of the net value of the investment, BoC said.
BOCAM is the first Cypriot mutual fund management company approved by both the European Central Bank and the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Committee (CySEC), the bank added.

Source: CyprusMail

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