Sales of illegal Cable TV decoders have been soaring in the lead-up to the European soccer championship, which begins in Portugal on Saturday. A visit by the South China Morning Post last week to Apliu Street in Shamshuipo saw dozens of people looking for decoders that can hack into Cable TV's digital signals. Prices ranged from $885 to $1,200, depending on whether the customer preferred to install the box themselves or pay extra for home installation. Each decoder box contains a smart card to decode the signals. When Cable TV changes its frequencies, customers of the illegal boxes can bring their card back and pay $100 for a new one. 'Just pay a one-time fee and you get all the channels,' one vendor said. 'It's very easy to install, just hook the cable from the antenna to the box, and then from the box to the television.' Vendors at these street shops said many customers came from public housing estates such as Wong Tai Sin, Kwun Tong and Sha Tin. In those areas, the number of illegal subscribers probably outweighs those who paid the monthly fees, the vendors claimed. It is not illegal for decoders to be used in private homes but vendors who sell them are breaking the law. Under the Broadcasting Ordinance, 'a person shall not, in the course of trade or business, import, export, manufacture, sell, offer for sale or let for hire an unauthorised [television] decoder'. The maximum penalty is a $1 million fine and five years' jail. A spokeswoman for the Office of the Telecommunications Authority, which enforces the law, said it regularly conducted raids with the police. The last crackdown took place in Shamshuipo last month, when officers questioned two people and confiscated 32 illegal decoders. A Cable TV spokeswoman said the company would complete the digitalisation of the transmission system in the third quarter of this year. The new method would have a sophisticated encryption arrangement to protect the programmes from being tapped.