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Gulf telcos must join battle over illegal downloads

Telcos making money from broadband services that are used for illegal downloands, Virgin boss claims

Retailers and telcos need to work more closely together to control illegal downloads.
Retailers and telcos need to work more closely together to control illegal downloads.

Gulf telcos must work harder to police their networks as illegal film and music downloads threaten the future of the digital industry, the head of Virgin Megastores Middle East said.

Nisreen Shocair said curbs on copyright criminals in the Middle East lagged the rest of the world, a situation media companies claim costs them billions of dollars in lost revenues.

"Telcos keep selling bandwidth and we all know what bandwidth means, it means faster downloads and most of it, I imagine is illegal downloads," Shocair, the regional president of the retail giant, told Arabian Business. "We need to work closely with the telcos to solve that."

Virgin Megastore Middle East plans to open an online digital download platform to allow users to purchase music, movies and other entertainment products.

"I don't think anyone wants to see the music industry go away, or video, or gaming so [telecoms operators] are willing to work with us I am sure," she said.

"There was some report that said whatever revenue the music industry lost in physical sales, the telcos generated in bandwidth sales - and we see telcos selling faster and faster bandwidth."

Stores across Europe and the US have seen a rapid decline in CD sales, hit by piracy and the rise in illegal downloads. Virgin rival HMV closed 60 stores across the UK last year.

But Shorcair said a move to expand the selection of CDs in retail outlets across the Middle East had proved a surprise success.  

"We expanded [the CD section] and business went up 15%. Obviously there is a demand still there," said Shocair."[Retail sales] are back up against last year... We are up 30% in the UAE. It is very simple, with the political situation in Egypt everyone came here and that made sure we had a fantastic summer. It was wild."

Virgin Megastores this month opened a 2,400 sq m store in Dubai Mall, the city's largest shopping centre, and is looking to Abu Dhabi, Egypt and Qatar for further growth, Shocair said,

In Egypt, the brand will open a second store in December and is in talks for two further developments.