Why can’t I watch these services abroad?
BBC iPlayer, 4oD, ITV Player, and Sky Go cannot be viewed when outside the UK. In addition to this, many other services such as LoveFilm and Spotify are only available in some locations around the world, and even then may have restrictions placed on them (such as having a reduced catalogue). BBC iPlayer is of course funded by UK resident’s money through the TV Licence fee and therefore only available for free to UK residents, while the other services are tied by licencing restrictions.
VPN solves this problem!
VPN (Virtual Private Networking) allows you to watch web based services normally restricted to the UK by ‘spoofing’ your apparent internet address, making it appear that you are connecting from a location in Britain.
You download a piece of software that connects your computer directly to a UK based VPN server through what is known as an ‘encrypted tunnel’, so that all your internet traffic passes along the ‘tunnel’ and appears to originate in the UK (from the VPN server’s internet address).
It is very easy and quick to set up, costs only a small amount each month, and allows you to enjoy the best and most up-to-date British TV when away from home!
VPN is useful for other things too!
VPN can do much more than just let you watch British TV when abroad. Because all internet traffic between your computer and the VPN server is securely encrypted, no-one except the VPN provider (not even your Internet Service Provider or the NSA), can spy on what you get up to when surfing the internet. It is also a great way to secure your internet connection when using a public WiFi Hotspot (such as those commonly found in hotels, cafés and restaurants around the world) as all your data is encrypted.
5 Best VPNs for watching British telly when abroad
We have a list of the 5 best VPNs abroad below. Take a look at the summary table, and then we have a detailed description of each one.
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Pros: keeps no usage logs, lots of servers worldwide, fast, 30 day money back guarantee
Cons: US company, only 1 device at once
ExpressVPN is a large US based company with a global reach, having VPN servers in 78 countries including the UK (in London, Berkshire and the Isle of Man). ExpressVPN keeps no records of what you get up to on the internet, offers a 30 day no quibbles money back guarantee, and provides a fast internet connection so you won’t suffer any annoying stutters or pauses when steaming your favourite TV shows. If you like watching telly shows on your phone or tablet, then ExpressVPN has that covered too with a dedicated Android app, and some of the best support for iPhones and iPads that we have seen.
Pros: keeps no usage logs, 14 money back guarantee, company based in Hong Kong, special TV package (which covers the UK), good encryption, accept Bitcoins, BitTorrent downloading permitted: yes (but not on UK or US servers),
Cons: only 1 device at once, P2P: no
If all the NSA and GHCQ spying business that has been in the news lately bothers you, and you like the idea of VPN giving you greater anonymity on the internet, then the fact that BlackVPN is based in Hong Kong (and is therefore not subject to US or UK government spying) may well appeal to you. It keeps no logs of your internet activity, has a fast UK server, and has a special low cost TV package designed specifically for watching web based television when abroad.
3. Private Internet Access
Pros: no logs, very fast, strong encryption, uses shared IPs, up to 5 devices at once, accepts Bitcoins, BitTorrent downloading permitted: yes
Cons: No free trial, US company
PIA is a ‘bells and whistles’ provider, offering very fully featured software (for example it can automatically disconnect you from the internet if your VPN connection goes down), an Android app, and strong encryption. You can connect up to five devices at once, it keeps no logs at all, and the monthly price is one of the lowest around.
Pros: no usage log, strong encryption, very fast, AutoProxy, neat client with Application Killer, based in Moldova, BitTorrent downloading permitted: yes
Cons: does not accept Bitcoin, restrictive policy on multiple connections (better than none though!)
A new VPN company from Moldova, CactusVPN impressed us with its no usage logs policy, excellent encryption, low price, and nifty software (featuring a per-application kill switch). We also think that it’s ‘AutoProxy’ service, which rather than changing your IP for every site you visit (as most Proxy and VPN services do), allows you to configure your browser so that your IP will only change for a list of certain websites (such as iPlayer, 4oD etc.), is perfect for users wanting access to UK services.
Pros: no logs, accepts Bitcoin, strong encryption, 2 simultaneous connections, uses shared IPs, based in Panama, BitTorrent downloading permitted: yes
Cons: inconsistent connection speeds, a little pricey
Based in Panama but with servers in the UK, NordVPN keeps no logs, uses strong encryption and allows you connect two devices at once. We did find speeds were a bit inconsistent, but NordVPN is a new company, and we have faith that it sort this out as time goes on.