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BeIN, du sign deal to broadcast Fifa World Cup in UAE

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The telecom provider is yet to announce when the subscription starts.

In a sudden development, UAE telecoms provider Du has signed a deal with beIN Sports to show the network's content, including the Fifa World Cup, on its channels.

Du's online helpline confirmed the new deal as residents enquired whether are beIN Sports channels back and can they subscribe to the network to watch the much awaited Fifa World Cup starting this month.

The telecom provider is yet to announce when the subscription starts.

Earlier on Sunday, thousands of sports fans across the UAE were left in limbo just weeks ahead of the World Cup, as beIN Sports on Sunday had confirmed that its contract with telecommunications provider du will not be renewed.

The Qatar-based broadcaster took to Twitter to say it has "not been able to reach an agreement to continue its services over du's network".

"In light of this, the service has ceased on the network on June 2, 2018, as the contract between the parties had expired on May 31, 2018. The group has further acted in good faith by granting the network an extension of 24 hours to conclude the renewal process and sustain the service, to no avail," part of the statement read.

It did, however, add that "viewers can continue to enjoy our services over satellite, and live streaming via beIN Connect".

When Khaleej Times reached out to du for comment, it had declined to respond.

Fans not happy

With the start of the Fifa World Cup just 10 days away, the unfortunate timing of the announcement would have left thousands of football fans in the UAE scrambling for alternatives to watch the month-long sporting tournament at home. Many feared they would be left out of pocket, too.

"My du home package is a two-year contract. If I switch to the alternative telecoms provider, I'll have to fork out for the disconnection charges. Additionally, I'll have to pay connection charges for the new network. It's just really bad timing," graphic designer Raja C. told Khaleej Times. After hearing the news, Raja said he immediately called the du customer care line. "The phone agent told me that no decision had been finalised from du's side as yet, but he said that it will be providing World Cup coverage for customers via other sources, but he did not specify what sources exactly."

For Jumeirah Lakes Towers resident, Jayj Shah, the timing couldn't be worse. "About 90 per cent of the people in my building are with du. I don't think Etisalat provides services to my building, so switching providers isn't even an option for me."

The alternative, he said, is to watch the matches online via satellite packages, but it's just not the same experience as watching games on the big screen.

"It's just a hassle, especially with the World Cup just 10 days away. To be honest, I haven't really explored the alternatives as I'm hoping it will get resolved, but the bottom line is, I can't miss the World Cup. There is no straightforward solution right now though."

Like many, Irish expatriate Michael Quinn has been left deflated by the announcement. Just days after buying a large screen TV during the holy month of Ramadan sales especially for the World Cup, he said it's been a big waste of time and money.

"Now I hear this! I'm just annoyed to be honest. Customers who were expecting to get full coverage of the games will be angry. It's left a bad taste in my mouth. Now, the only alternative is to go out and watch the games, but that means spending money - money I wasn't planning on spending prior to the service cancellation."

A large number of eateries across the UAE would have also be left looking for alternatives as far as screening the World Cup goes. Many operating off the du network have been heavily advertising screening times for the tournament in the lead up to the June 14 kick off, but when Khaleej Times reached out to several of the establishments on Sunday, they said they were unable to provide comment at the time.

At present, all beIN services are currently working as normal, with "no interruption in services" on the Etisalat network.

"A World Cup package is available at a standalone price of Dh555. We advise customers looking for alternatives go to the nearest business centre to find out if Etisalat TV services are available in their area," a source from the telecoms network told Khaleej Times.

Internet options: Take an indirect 'digital' free kick

For residents affected by du and beIN Sports' service expiration, not all hope is lost.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Abhinav Purohit, a UAE-based strategy consultant specialising in telecommunications technology, said even if your Internet provider is du, residents can still subscribe to beIN Connect directly, via a satellite connection, and get coverage on services directly from there.

"Most satellite services, like beIN, offer secondary viewing on a small screen (laptop, PC, tablet etc); these will work on any Internet provider connection."

However, he did add that subscribers need to be aware that "some features" may be compromised.

"The quality they are used to via the du service (an IPTV service), such as the pausing live TV and using catch up, view later services, typically clubbed under the du+ offerings, will not be available on satellite connection for beIN, so it's a small trade-off."

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