TvWhenAway offers a simple service that (as the name would suggest) is targeted squarely at novice users who want to access UK media streaming services such as the BBC iPlayer, 4oD and ITV Player when outside the UK (for example when on holiday or living abroad as expats). Although in reality a VPN provider, TvWhenAway does not even bill itself as such, somewhat undercutting our usual criticisms of VPNs who fail to live up to our standards of respect for privacy etc. After all, beating it up for something it does not even claim to be does seem rather unfair.
For this reason we will content ourselves with admitting that TvWhenAway does everything it sets out to do, and does it well, but will point out that many other VPN providers offer a much superior service, that is also cheaper than TvWhenAway’s rather expensive offer.
Prices and Features
TvWhenAway offers just one package, with prices ranging from £2.99 (almost $5) for 1 week, ranging up to £6.99 (approx. $11) per month, and £39.00 (around $60) for a year. For this you get a basic OpenVPN service, and can also access TvWhenAway’s proxy servers, which is mainly useful for mobile devices which do not support OpenVPN out of the box.
The website & Customer Service
The TvWhenAway website is slightly gaudy but perfectly functional, and that exists mainly to advertise its very simple service. There is a FAQ, but it (like the service) is aimed very squarely at the novice user, or at answering billing related questions.
If you have any problems, you can contact TvWhenAway using form based email, and they promise to get back in touch within 24 hours.
TvWhenAway uses the secure OpenVPN VPN protocol, which comes with a minimum of 128-bit encryption. This is more than enough for any but the most serious user, who is unlikely to choose this service anyway.
As a UK provider and therefore subject to the EU wide Data Retention Directive, TvWhenAway is not a service suitable for P2P torrent downloading or any other internet activity that you wish to keep anonymous. But it doesn’t claim to be.
As is fitting for such a simple service, registering and setting up TvWhenAway was a very easy task.
Registering was a doddle, with only an email address and password being asked of us. Payment is via PayPal only, and was very straightforward.
The Windows VPN client
Once payment has been processed you will receive a small barrage of emails giving you all the information you will need, as well as a link to the OpenVPN client with which you have to sign in to download.
Once downloaded and installed you need to sign in to the client itself.
The client then appears as an icon in your Task Bar which gives you the option to Connect or choose between the TCP (more secure) or UDP (faster) versions of the OpenVPN protocol.
Once connected the icon turned green to let you know everything is working as it should.
Admittedly these tests were performed from witinh the UK, but should accurately reflect how fast the actual VPN server is. The further away from the UK you are connecting from, the slower your connection will be, but this is fault of physics, not TvWhenAway!
These are good download and ping results, and excellent upload results. What this means is that media streaming services will work well, as long as your original bandwidth is high enough. For the sake of reference, the BBC iPlayer needs around 3.5Mb/s to stream HD content.
TvWhenAway provides preconfigured open source OpenVPN clients for Windows, Max OSX and Linux, as well as step-by-step guides (with accompanying screenshots) to setting up their OpenVPN service on iOS (using OpenVPN connect) and Android (using OpenVPN for Android) devices.
It also provides proxy settings and guides for using them in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and on the Wii and iOS devices, although we can’t really think why you might want to do this rather than just using OpenVPN.
- It does what is says it does
- OpenVPN encryption
We weren’t so sure about
- As a VPN provider concerned with protecting your privacy we have many criticisms of TvWhenAway, but then again, it does not market itself as such…
- Expensive for what it is
Hmm… it is difficult to know how to score TvWhenAway because it does exactly what it says on the tin, and it does it well (if a little expensively). However, the bottom line is that there are some crackingly good ‘proper’ VPN services out there, which provide genuine internet anonymity and a range of useful features, while still costing less. If you want to watch UK TV from outside the country, then one of the providers suggested in our articles here and here are infinitely better choices.