It’s rather pleasing to see a VPN service that’s completely up-front about its purpose. Expat Telly is specifically designed to allow subscribers across the world to access country-specific streaming TV services. Although the provider’s website concentrates on access to UK-based services, they also have US servers which allow users to access broadcasts from America. While Expat Telly is a very simplified service, for many it will provide the perfect balance between simplicity and performance. Highly recommended.
Expat Telly does exactly what it says on the tin, and the service’s clear approach deserves to win fans amongst those who need a VPN service purely to watch their favourite TV shows from “back home.”
This is not the right service for enthusiasts or those concerned about protocols, privacy and encryption levels. Expat Telly keeps things extremely simple. However, for everyone else, this simplicity is a reason to recommend it. Download speeds are superb too.
Packages & Pricing
Expat Telly’s service is clear and simple. There is just one service available with a choice of subscription periods.
As with many such services, Expat Telly offer a discount for a longer commitment period, but Expat Telly’s is particularly generous, with a full year’s subscription working out at half the price of a monthly package. While a month’s access costs €9.99, a full year costs €59.99. This is at the low-end of average for a service of this nature.
One benefit of Expat Telly’s service is that one subscription is valid for use on an unlimited number of devices within a household. Many providers place restrictions on this, so if you have many devices to hand, this could mean the service works out be be quite economical.
We were a little disappointed that there was no free trial available, and we saw no mention of a money-back guarantee – usually, one of the two options is available to us.
Customer service options at Expat Telly are rather limited. Clicking on the “Contact us” link simply opened our default mail with a new email addressed to the support department.
Once we had signed up for the service, we logged into the members’ area to see if any more support options were open to to us:
Unfortunately, all we found was a further link to the support department’s email address, along with the reassurance that all support queries are answered within 24-hours but “usually much sooner.” We sent a couple of queries while completing our review, and were pleased that they were both answered within a maximum of a few hours, and one within minutes.
Despite a good look around the rest of the site, we didn’t find any other support options, nor a phone number to contact the company direct.
Security and Privacy
In common with several other VPN solutions aimed at the consumer market, Expat Telly don’t provide any technical details of exactly how the service works. We asked the support department for further details, but while we awaited a response, we had a good look through the setup guides.
All of the guides appeared to concentrate on how to set up a simple PPTP VPN connection on each platform. While this is nice and simple, requiring no supplementary software, it’s fair to say that most VPN providers do offer more protocol options, such as L2TP and OpenVPN, both of which are more “up to date” and inherently more secure than the older PPTP technology. It is, however, also fair to comment that this is probably of little concern or interest to Expat Telly’s target market.
We did receive an answer to our query, which confirmed Expat Telly use PPTP exclusively, with MPPE Encryption.
The policy is not specific as to whether the provider maintains logs of how each subscriber uses the service. Those looking for a provider that guarantees no logs are maintained should therefore look elsewhere.
Registering for Expat Telly was simplicity itself. All payments are handled via PayPal.
After selecting the monthly subscription option, we were take the the screen shown above which linked directly through to PayPal.
All we had to do was enter our PayPal password and authorise our payment. We were then redirected back to Expat Telly’s website, and within less than a minute had received two emails; one containing our new logon and password and the other linking to the setup instructions.
We were impressed with the simplicity of the sign-up process. Other providers often make this unnecessarily convoluted, so it was impressive to be “ready to go” so fast.
Installation and Configuration
We used a Mac laptop, running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, to test Expat Telly’s service.
We clicked on the link in our welcome email and were taken to the Mac setup instructions.
We were a little concerned that the instructions referred to OS X 10.5.8, as shown in the screenshot above. This is OS X Leopard, an operating system that has long been superseded, not once but three times. This does seem to indicate that the provider doesn’t update the instructions very regularly. However, out of interest we looked at the other guides available and did find there was a guide online for the recently launched Windows 8.
We began to follow the instructions in earnest, which essentially just guided us through setting up a new PPTP VPN connection using the Mac’s System Preferences menus.
The instructions were simple, but with good, clear screenshots. As nothing fundamental has changed in the Mac’s network settings windows since OS X Leopard, we had no problem in quickly creating the new connection on our more up-to-date Mac.
Once the steps were complete we clicked “Connect” and the connection worked first time. An IP lookup revealed that we now had a UK IP address and we were able to visit a UK TV website and access content. Furthermore, everything seemed fast and slick, with no buffering.
Once we had our UK connection working, we were keen to find out how to access USA servers, as promised on the “Prices and Packages” section of the provider’s website. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any further reference to this anywhere else. We fired off another email to the support department, and received a reply back within minutes. While this was pleasing, it’s a shame nobody has updated the site documentation. Still, connecting to the US was a simple matter of changing the VPN server address within System Preferences, and the configuration worked first time.
Connection Speeds and reliability
As mentioned above, when we browsed to a UK streaming media site, we noticed that our Internet speed seemed pleasingly fast. We were therefore keen to put our connectivity to the test.
As usual we used Speedtest.net to test our download speed, beginning by running a test with the VPN disconnected, so we could obtain a benchmark speed for our connection. As shown in the screenshot below, we achieved a speed of 6.88Mbps.
We then connected to Expat Telly’s VPN server and ran the test again whilst connected, achieving a speed of 6.61Mbps.
On the face of it, this seemed an extraordinarily good result – one of the best seen when reviewing services of this kind.
Speaking purely subjectively, we did notice the speed seemed to come in “bursts” during the UK speed test, which is a little unusual. However, we performed several tests to satisfy ourselves that the speed was consistently satisfactory, and this was backed up by a lack of buffering while we watched some streaming media.
Finally, we performed a test while connected to Expat Telly’s USA server. While not quite reaching the heights of the UK test, the download speed was still a pleasingly impressive 5.66Mbps.
All in all, we were very impressed with the performance from Expat Telly.
Expat Telly provide setup guides for Windows (XP, Vista, 7 and 8), Mac OS X, iPad and Android).
From a technical standpoint, Expat Telly would, in theory, work with any device that supports PPTP VPN connections, as essentially the service uses a simple method of connectivity. In the same way, we suspect it would work on the iPhone and iPod Touch as well as the iPad. However, as it’s not advertised as such, we did not attempt to use any unsupported configurations.
Expat Telly’s customer area has very little functionality:
All that logging into the site gives you is an alternative route to the setup guides and some additional information about become an affiliate of the service. Password change functionality is also available, but there’s no ability to check membership status, expiry dates etc.
A simple targeted service that does everything it promises
Superb download speed performance
Fast technical support, albeit email only
We weren’t so sure about
No choice of protocols or encryption levels
Documentation needs some work
No free trial or money-back guarantee
Expat Telly scores highly for keeping things simple. It does what it’s advertised to do, and does it extremely well.
Expat Telly doesn’t set out to be “all things to all people.” It’s a service designed to help those overseas watch TV from back home. The majority of those people won’t care (or understand) that they’re not using the most up-to-date protocols and encryption technologies, nor will they be concerned about whether their usage is being logged.
While enthusiasts with other needs will look elsewhere, Expat Telly gets it right in terms of its target market and, as such, we warmly recommend it.