Pete Zaborszky

Pete Zaborszky

April 18, 2013

Summary

While some VPN services market themselves as being suitable for a plethora of different uses, My Expat Network is clear in it’s purpose: it’s a service intended to help expats living abroad watch TV services from their old home countries. Unusually, the service is clearly split into two alternative services, one for UK access and one for the USA.

My Expat Network doesn’t pretend to be “all things to all people,” and support leaves much to be desired. However, it gets the basics right and performance is decent.

While some people use VPN services for anonymity or to bypass censorship, it’s fair to say that probably the most common use is to access streaming media services from other countries. My Expat Network is quite upfront about this and markets its service purely as a means of accessing foreign TV services.

While it’s fair to say that there are other services that do more, and others that do the same in a slightly more refined way, this doesn’t change the fact that My Expat Network does what it sets out to do perfectly well. If it meets your requirements, it deserves a slot on your shortlist.

Packages & Pricing

As stated above, My Expat Network has a slightly unusual approach to selling its VPN package. Essentially, the UK and USA services are marketed and sold separately.

Seperate Marketing

It’s important to point this out, as many competing services sell all-in services with access to VPN servers in multiple countries for one price.

Prices vary slightly depending on the service you choose:

UK service

The UK service, as shown above, costs £5 per month for PC / Mac access OR tablet / mobile access. Alternatively, you can pay £7 per month for access from any device.

The prices for the US service are slightly different:

US Service

The US service is cheaper (when taking into account exchange rates) at $5 per month for PC / Mac access or $6.50 per month for access from any device. There is no “mobile / tablet only” option for the USA service.

The difference is real life cost due to the exchange rate seems a little unfair. At current exchange rates, the total annual cost of the “all-in” US service works out to $78. The UK service works out to the equivalent of $128. This doesn’t seem quite fair.

My Expat Network don’t offer any free trials of their services, however they do state in their FAQs that a one-month money-back guarantee is available if there are problems with the service.

For the purposes of this review, we decided to subscribe to (and concentrate on) the UK-based service.

Customer Service

My Expat Network handle their customer support via an outsourced Zendesk platform. This is a ticket-based helpdesk system. Although 24/7/365 support isn’t advertised, the provider states that they will reply to queries on the “same day.”

Zendesk support

We sent a query to the support department to test their response, but a reply only came about 36-hours later, not quite meeting the “same day” promise.

My Expat Network do offer one rather novel service: the ability to request that one of their staff members install the software for you via a remote connection. The service costs £25 and must be requested via the support ticketing system.

Install

Being techies ourselves, we didn’t avail ourselves of this service, but it could be useful to those timid of technology. The price compares favourably to what it would cost to call in a private IT professional.

My Expat Network do not offer any telephone support.

Security and Privacy

We found it challenging to find detailed technical information on how My Expat Network actually works. We eventually found information on the protocols used when we clicked through to subscribe. The service uses OpenVPN on computers and L2TP/IPSec on mobile devices.

We browsed through the FAQs and “Instruction Guides” sections, but found nothing about encryption levels. We then turned to the “Helpdesk and Support” section:

Helpdesk

Unfortunately, searching for words like “encryption” only revealed discussion of “encrypted tunnels” but didn’t tell us exact details, such as whether these are 128 or 256-bit.

Privacy information was a little more clear. The privacy policy states that the company logs connection details and bandwidth utilisation but that “no other form of monitoring is permitted.” This doesn’t actually reveal whether logs are maintained, so those obsessed with privacy may wish to gain some further clarification.

The process

Registering

So that we could test both desktop and mobile services, we decided to subscribe to the UK VPN Multi-use service at £7 per month. This allows you to use the service on up to three devices at once.

UK Multi use

All of My Expat Network’s payment processing is handled by PayPal:

Payment

Clicking the “Subscribe Multi-Use” button took us directly to PayPal. Rather than paying by card, we set up a recurring monthly subscription using our existing PayPal funds.

As soon as our payment was complete, we were given a username and password (whilst still within PayPal’s system). We had previously been advised to note this down. We also received a confirmation email from PayPal.

Unusually, we weren’t redirected straight back to the providers web page. We instead went back to that browser tab manually, where we were able to enter our new username and password into a login box.

Login

Installation and Configuration

We decided to use a Mac running OS X Mountain Lion for our testing, so chose the Mac OSX option on the login box (shown above).

When we clicked the “Login” button, we expected to be taken to a customer area, but instead a .ZIP installation file began to download. We referred to the Mac instructions to see what to do next.

ZIP INSTALL

Essentially, all we had to do was unzip the file we had downloaded and drag the application (.app) file to our Mac’s “Applications” folder. We then had to enter our system password to “change ownership” of the file.

Having done this, a new connectivity icon appeared in our Mac’s menu bar:

New icon

Getting to this point was relatively straightforward and well-documented. While the process could be made more user friendly for novices, we have seen worse combinations of setup steps and instructions.

We clicked on our new menu item and selected “Connect MyExpatNetwork.” Connection was almost instantaneous. After connecting, we checked our IP address, which was now located in the south of England. We browsed to a popular UK-based streaming media site and were instantly able to access region-locked content.

We had a quick look in the “VPN Details” menu. This primarily allowed us to make cosmetic changes to the VPN software and access log files – we were not able to access any significant encryption or protocol settings.

Connection speeds and reliability

As usual, we carried out some speed tests in order to assess the performance of the My Expat Network Service. First we used Speedtest.net to perform a test whilst disconnected to get a benchmark download speed figure:

ST discon

This download speed of just under 5Mbps was fairly typical for this particular test location. Next, we connected using the VPN client software and ran the test again:

spcon

This was very pleasing result, with the download speed only dropping by under 0.5Mbps as a result of being connected to the VPN.

As we were only testing the UK-based My Expat Network service, this was the only desktop test we could complete.

Compatibility

My Expat Network only provide client software for Windows PCs and Apple Macs, but the service’s compatibility list is significantly more broad:

Compat list

As well as also supporting Linux, My Expat Network provide manual setup devices for all a wide range of mobile devices including Windows Mobile, which most providers ignore. They also provide router-level support for those using Sabai branded VPN routers.

We decided to use the manual setup instructions to put My Expat Network to the test on an iPhone 4S.

My Expat Network on the iPhone

Setting up My Expat Network on an iOS device essentially involves manually configuring a new VPN connection via the device’s setup screens.

Setup iPhone

The process is reasonably well documented, with screenshot instructions. Once again, we’ve seen simpler setup procedures with better instructions, but seen far worse too.

We followed the process as described, at one point having to refer back to the username and password we were given during PayPal signup. After doing this, we had a new L2TP VPN connection to My Expat Network, which connected first time, albeit somewhat slowly.

We decided to run a couple of speedtests whilst connected via 3G – both to look at the performance overhead and to confirm that the service works over a cellular connection.

First we ran a test with the VPN disconnected:

mob stest1

Then we ran a second test whilst connected to My Expat Network’s UK-based L2TP server:

mob stest2

This test result wasn’t quite as impressive as what we’d seen on the Mac; the L2TP connection reduced our mobile download speed by about 1.5Mbps. This was an average but acceptable result.

Customer Area

Most VPN service providers offer a login-protected customer area. My Expat Network doesn’t do so and, in fact, even supplies password details via PayPal’s payment system.

The only logon-protected part of the site is used to trigger the download of the VPN client software, which is pre-configured for each customer and pre-populated with passwords and configuration settings.

While we would quite like to see an area that centralizes billing details, support requests and account information, the slightly unusual way that My Expat Network does things works well enough – and the pre-configured client software is a big plus point for novice users.

Conclusion

We liked

  • Simple, focussed product
  • Good download performance on our Mac
  • Pre-configured client software

We weren’t so sure about

  • Split UK and US services
  • Cluttered website
  • Support query not answered within promised timescale

We hated

  • Pricing disparity between UK and US versions

My Expat Network isn’t the slickest VPN service we’ve come across, but it does its job pretty well. Everything works, technically-speaking, and performance is either very good (desktop) or the acceptable end of average (mobile).

It is a shame about the pricing disparity between the UK and USA versions of the solution, especially when many VPN products offer access to servers in both (and sometimes more) countries for one price. It was also disappointing to hear nothing but “radio silence” from the support department. Even so, this solution did nothing else to significantly annoy us while we reviewed it, so we walked away with a reasonably positive impression.

 

 

Pete Zaborszky

Written by

Published on: April 18, 2013.

June 12th, 2018

Pete runs BestVPN.com and wants to get detailed information to the readers. He is dedicated to being the best and providing the highest quality at anything he does. You can also find him on Twitter

12 responses to “My Expat Network Review

    DON’T USE THEM

    I would not recommend you use this company, i subscribed for 1 month but they took money from my PayPal for 15 months after every month, i never use my PayPal so didnt realise they were still taking the money even though i only subscribed for a month. When i asked for a refund they quoted small print and terms and conditions (even though they could see i had not used the service) and refused a refund. DISGRACE. I am pursuing a refund through other avenues, its not about the money as its less than £100, its the principle of how badly we get treated in such matters.

    1. Hi Micheal,

      You are right to be angry. Unfortunately, the auto-renewing subscription trick is used by far too many services.

    It’s working fine for me. Will see how it goes – instructions aren’t great.

    to run it on PC you need to find the icon in the toolbar at the bottom right of the screen and right click to connect to VPN. You can then get into iPlayer etc. (Going to the program through the list of programs – where you naturally think you have to launch it won’t get you anywhere.) Happily catching up with programs from home. Frankly working better over here than connecting to them through certain broadband services in the UK.

    Do not use. I tried to use it (I am a UK resident wanting US TV). Only after I subscribed did they explain that you have to have an Apple US account (clearly I have a UK account) and then they said it would work on a computer. So I came home from my travels to find out that they apps on google and apple only pick up my sony phone and ipad respectively. I cancelled immediately after that. scam. I cancelled through paypal.

    Do not subscribe. A complete scam. No help or contact.
    Does not work

    I live in Spain and have an ASDL internet router and connection provided by Telefonica S.L. for my Google Chrome laptop and tablet on which I am currently enjoying UK TV using Expat Network’s services. The problem in that the screen is rather small and it doesn’t really allow the family to watch any of the programs together.
    Can anybody tell me, in layman’s terms for I am not very good at technological terminology, if there is a smart TV with internet connection on the market that not too expensive and which allows us to connect this service directly from the router to the TV without having to use the laptop to connect the two?
    Please let us know, your advice is highly appreciated.

    1. Hi, buy an Apple TV. It’s a small square box, with hdmi out that plugs into your tv, then mirrors or receives the programs from your device. I use mine with a laptop, iPhone and iPad.

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