When a geek acquaintance let me test his Android IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) box for two weeks, I first thought it was a joke. Because this small square box, connected to the TV via an HDMI cable, looks like the Boxes of Free, SFR, Orange… The big difference being that to work, it must be connected to WiFi… and that the thousands of TV channels and VOD movies available are accessible in a perfectly illegal way.
Concretely, this box, the Beelink GT 1 Ultimate, costs between 60 and 70 euros in stores, and is quite close to a smartphone or an Android tablet. It runs on Android 7.0 Nougat, and in addition to playing games and surfing the Internet, it allows you to install most Google Play applications – from Netflix to Spotify, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and the Molotov IPTV service. This (legal) Internet TV channel distribution service, which is free of charge, allows you to watch 34 live or replay channels via the cloud – to see more, you have to pay.
Everything would be fine if the Android TV boxes, from the Beelink GT 1 to the Xiaomi MI 3 4k (between 50 and 60 euros on e-commerce sites), via the X96 mini (around 30-40 euros), which transform your TV into smart TV thanks to the Net, did not also allow the installation of illegal applications and services, which offer access to a plethora of pirated multimedia content. An offer that Molotov looks pale in comparison…
Of course, we no longer present Kodi, the free Media Center from the Xbox, now used on Android TVs to play videos… especially in illegal streaming, thanks to the addition of plug-ins – such as, for example, vStream, an add-on that allows access to videos stored on illegal streaming and direct download platforms such as DDL Island or Zone Telechargement; or as Logan TV, an IPTV extension that offers several playlists with European TV channels, especially sports channels.
But this system, although free, remains fragile: the quality of the videos is not always up to scratch, the sites from which the IPTV streams and illegal streaming movies come regularly close, and it’s easy to see one’s Box infected by a virus, by walking on all these pirate sites. What I was able to test via my geek friend is more solid, more efficient, more industrial… Instead of going through Kodi, he went through an illegal IPTV subscription, answering to the sweet name of Volka TV Pro 2. Concretely, he installed an APK (Android Package Kit) file retrieved from the site of this pirate service, then installed on his Beelink GT 1 using a USB key. Then he found a code that gave him access for 365 days… to thousands of TV channels from around the world, movies and series. All this, most of the time, in HD quality.
Where did that code come from? A subscription to Volka TV bought on Ebay, for the modest sum of 25 euros. So, to sum up, for 25 euros a year, it is possible to access most of the films and series scattered on Netflix, OCS and Amazon Video, as well as the TV channels on TNT, cable, Canal Sat, etc. No more snooping around on shady sites to watch football matches: you have direct access to beIN, RMC Sport and company.
With Volka TV Pro 2 (which you can also use on your smartphone, since it’s an Android app), you also get access to 1,400 TV channels, some of them in HD in H.265 format. On the menu: DTT channels, Arab (Nilesat), American (ABC, Showtime, HBO…) and British (Sky) channels, as well as the CanalSat package, with OCS, Cine + Premiere, Canal +, Canal + Cinema, RMC Sport and beIN Sports.
These channels available on Volka are not strictly speaking live. There is indeed a 30-second time lag with respect to their legally accessible counterparts, which betrays the process used by the pirates who market this IPTV subscription – the same process used by streamers who rebroadcast live football matches on illegal streaming sites: exploiting a loophole in HDCP technology, which normally protects the streams entering and leaving the decoders and boxes connected to the TV by an HDMI cable; then recovering the streams, recompressing them and rebroadcasting them in streaming.
Except for a few times when the quality was poor (especially in the case of sports channels such as beIN and RMC Sport), the quality of the programs viewed is undeniably good – equivalent to what you would get through CanalSat or the Freebox.
After having hallucinated in front of all these TV channels so easily accessible, I fell off my chair in front of the VOD section… which gives access to no less than 1648 films in VF and 1500 films in VO, as well as 43 TV series, often taken from Netflix, OCS, CanalPlay and Amazon Prime Video. Some thirty films are even offered in 4K, and about ten in 3D.
Among the thousands of films available are Netflix novelties such as the film Bird Box. And if among the series on offer, you don’t always find all the current seasons, the offer is vast enough to spend hours in front of your TV, and the updates are regular. Although the series on offer do not include the entire Netflix, CanalPlay or Amazon Prime Video catalogue, you can still enjoy the main series, including Game of Thrones, Dr House, House of Cards, Viking, The Walking Dead, Grey’s Anatomy, True Detective, Breaking Bad, Narcos, La Casa de Papel, The Handmaids Tale, Mindhunter, Black Mirror, Mr Robot, Boardwalk Empire and… The Office of Legends. It is also possible to watch all these movies in random mode, on several channels of a pirate IPTV bouquet called Box Office.
Of course Volka Pro 2 is not the only IPTV service that illegally competes with official broadcasters: there are other subscriptions of the same type, such as Smart IPTV, Gogo IPTV and Atlas Pro IPTV. Platforms hosted in countries with little cooperation in the fight against piracy – in Eastern Europe (Lithuania, Greece, Bulgaria, Russia), but also and above all in Morocco and Algeria, two countries where card sharing (sharing of subscriptions to satellite packages), pirate decoders and illegal subscriptions have been commonplace for at least ten years – and which also offer access to thousands of TV channels and films/series for 30 to 50 euros a year.
Although these offers are very attractive, we should not forget that these are illegal services, offered by mafia groups, and therefore, from an ethical point of view, their use raises questions. Secondly, if such applications coupled with an IPTV box allow you to watch lots of content for cheap or even free when the tariffs of the rights holders are low, we should not forget that Volka TV or Atlas IPTV are likely to disappear overnight following a police operation. And also that at the same time, in addition to losing your money, you are likely to become part of the list of clients concocted by the pirates, and thus be punished by the courts.
In addition, TV channels, providers, operators and VOD platforms are beginning to be seriously concerned about the impact of illegal IPTV – although for the moment they are focusing mainly on streaming sites, 4% of French Internet users use set-top boxes with Kodi according to Hadopi, and audiovisual groups consider the subject to be “major”. If Hadopi is still skating around and still has trouble finding you when you are watching streaming or IPTV, you should know that this is not impossible either – above all because your ISP may well realise that you are using an IPTV subscription and report you, for example if they find that you are consuming large data streams, but not from their own services. The result is that you run the risk of being convicted of counterfeiting, with 3 years in prison and a fine of 300,000 euros as the maximum penalty.
Finally, in addition to the scams (first when buying an illegal subscription on Ebay, then when using it), to which you will have no recourse, there is the issue of computer security: according to cybersecurity experts, pirate IPTV applications can conceal malware, or bloatware – software that systematically adds new functionalities that are useless to the user, but which allows the user’s personal data to be collected. For all these reasons, think twice before using such services and crossing the yellow line.