Don’t Use a VPN Router for UK TV !

Sometimes the simplest solutions are often the best.  Lots of British Expats spend an awful lot of time trying to replace the things from the UK that they miss. However happy people are in their new location, there’s always going to be an element of homesickness at some points.  For me I can never quite get used to Christmas in the sun or  foreign chocolate which never quite tastes the same.   Yet the real biggie for many of us is UK television, it’s difficult to replace as I reckon it’s  best in the world especially for English speakers.

So it’s not surprising that there are many discussions on how to access these TV stations from your new location.  Anyone who has lived abroad or traveled a lot will know that although all the UK TV stations broadcast everything online, if you’re physically outside the United Kingdom then it doesn’t work.  All the major British channels check on your location when you connect, if your IP address is registered outside the United Kingdom then you won’t be able to watch.

You’ll get something like the following screen – either an error message or a notification that you’re outside the UK.

VPN Router for UK TV

Trying to Connect to UK TV Abroad

There are solutions of course and many millions do enjoy the best of British TV from all over the world. They’re not that hard to find,  after all the internet is jam packed full of workarounds, cheats and hacks.  However many of these can be needlessly complicated and expensive.   The simplest solutions are all based on accessing the various TV stations websites online  – e.g BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub etc, but even then there’s quite a few methods and many simply don’t work in 2019.

To access the online channels, you need to convince the website that you’re actually in the United Kingdom.  Each site determines your location by looking up where your IP address is registered, if it’s not in the UK then nothing will work.   Unfortunately it’s not actually possible to change your IP address however you can hide and obscure it.  The main methods are to use VPNs and proxies to ‘bounce’ your internet connection through, so instead of seeing your real IP address the website sees the address of the intermediate computer.

As long as the proxy/VPN server is

  • In the United Kingdom
  • Configured so it can’t be detected.
  • Not Blocked by the website
  • Doesn’t have too many user

– then it should work perfectly, the website will think you’re in the UK and you’ll have full access to every UK only website.  Sounds easy? Well it is really but there are some complications.  However there’s really no need to pay big bucks for a preconfigured VPN router, because there’s easier options.

One of the major difficulties though is that we now watch TV on all sorts of different devices, not just computers.  Anything with a screen and network access from Smartphones to Games consoles can be used.  Getting these devices to connect to a VPN or proxy server can be difficult and sometimes almost impossible.

Fortunately it is possible to solve this problem and actually enable a fake UK IP address for all your devices in one place.

Using a VPN Router for UK TV

As mentioned, there are many complicated methods to enable VPNs on your different devices.  You can even set up your internet router to establish a VPN to a UK server too.  The advantage of this is that all your traffic is routed through this UK including all the traffic from devices connected to this router.  So theoretically you can enable UK TV access on all your devices without having to enable anything on them directly.

This does involve owning a specific type of router though and I can guarantee it’s not the crappy, under powered one your ISP gave you either.  Remember it’s a client side outbound VPN connection you need to the UK server.  Many routers which advertise VPN functionality actually mean they’ll handle inbound VPN connections from the client only.   Which is great for accessing your router securely but useless for David Attenborough on BBC iPlayer!

If  you have the right router, some technical knowledge and a little perseverance it is perfectly possible to use a VPN router for UK TV.  It might even be the best solution particularly if you only use the router for specific devices and just to watch the BBC for example.    But remember when you enable a VPN on your router all your traffic will go through that tunnel which is connected to a server in the UK.  This includes your email, messaging, simple browsing absolutely everything all redirected to the UK.   It can be a nuisance as well, because useful geolocation like Google finding you local results instead of those in the UK will also be affected.

A Simple, Low Cost Solution Does Exist and you can try it for free !

Click Here for Free Trial

It’s called Smart DNS and for many people who just want to watch UK or US TV stations makes more sense than a complicated openvpn router.  There’s actually no direct VPN involved but you simply change your DNS settings to point at a specially configured DNS server.  Just input them into your router’s internet setup page like the page on my Linksys VPN router below.

router with vpn and firewall

So instead of going to a standard DNS server, which will normally be automatically allocated for you when you connect to your ISP you use a Smart DNS one. This works in exactly  the same way as a standard DNS server resolving IP address and domain names apart from one crucial difference.  Whenever it sees a request for a geo-blocked web site like the BBC it will route the initial connection through a server in the appropriate country.

One quick change and everything on your network will be unlocked!

So for the BBC your connection will be temporarily routed through the UK, for US sites it will go through a server in the USA and so on.  Basically  the Smart DNS server contains a list of sites to unlock automatically and when required will hide your location.

This has loads of advantages but one of the major ones is that unlike a full VPN the rest of your connection is unaffected.  What’s more only a small amount of your traffic is routed through the external servers, just enough to hide your location, so the rest of your browsing will work as normal.  It’s like having a dedicated VPN router which automatically works but only when you really need it.

What’s the Catch – Sounds Great !!

For watching TV and bypassing blocks it works really well but there are catches which you should be aware of.  Probably the most important is that although this provides the same functionality it’s not exactly a VPN router for UK TV.

There’s no layer of encryption for example so your internet connection is not protected.  There’s also a requirement that your exact IP address has to be registered with the Smart DNS company to work.  So every time it changes you need to reregister the address with your provider, it’s not so bad on a home connection but not really feasible for using on a mobile which will switch addresses frequently.   This is not a problem when the mobile is using your Wifi at home though as the IP address in this case would not change.

 

Watch the Latest BBC One Planet Abroad

There’s probably few television programmes which can have such a global impact as the BBC’s Natural history documentaries. There’s certainly few to rival their quality, which is hardly surprising considering the immense time, effort and money it takes to produce these shows.

BBC One Planet Abroad

So excitement is starting to build as the latest programme is scheduled to be broadcast this weekend Sunday 27th October, 2019 which is called – Seven Worlds, One Planet.  It’s the latest documentary following the success earlier this year of the BBC Earth the Planets series by Professor Brian Cox.  We should not be too impatient though as these documentaries are world class and take time to produce.

Obviously you’d imagine that it takes a lot of effort to bring spectacular shows like these to our screens but some of the figures are simply staggering.

  • The seven part series took four years to shoot.
  • Each show covers a different continent
  • Employed over 1500 people.
  • Filming took place in 41 separate countries.
  • Latest technology utilized including extensive drone footage.

If you like nature programmes this one looks unmissable, it’s called Seven Worlds One Planet and just check out this trailer !

Looks pretty awesome doesn’t it !

The show will also be available on BBC iPlayer after each broadcast and should stay on the archive for twelve months. I believe the show should be able for streaming and downloading for twelve months as this mirrors the new standard for iPlayer. This is only available for people connecting from the United Kingdom though, unless you read the following section.

How to Watch BBC One Planet Abroad

It’s become somewhat of a hobby of mine since I moved partly out of the United Kingdom about twelve years ago.  How to retain access to all the UK television programmes which are normally available online when you’re in the UK.  During this time the use of geo-blocking and targeting technologies has expanded by a huge amount.  A decade ago the BBC made some half hearted efforts to restrict access but these were easily circumvented by using all manner of free IP address hiding proxies freely available over the internet.  Basically they’d still block any non-UK IP addresses but it was very, very simple to bypass these blocks.  There was no attempt at detecting the proxies, or analysing connections or identifying concurrent use of IP address ranges.

Unfortunately this has all changed over the last few years and now it take a little more knowledge to find the solution to these blocks.   It’s still relatively simple but there is lots of misleading information and false promises especially by cheap VPN companies trying to sell their services.  It’s definitely worth it though and don’t worry millions of people still use these methods to enjoy the hue amount of UK television available online.

The method is relatively unchanged, to watch the BBC outside the United Kingdom you have to hide your real IP address.  This is done by routing your internet connection through an intermediate server which is based in the UK.   Simple proxies no longer work as they can be detected automatically, nowadays you have to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network).  This operates in primarily the same way, except the VPN server cannot be detected automatically.

Here’s one at work –

It’s referred to as a proxy in the video, but in fact is using an encrypted VPN connection to hide your location. It’s really still quite a simple process, the crucial factors are the servers which are used. These are what the BBC and other media sites detect, they identify the servers and the IP addresses assigned to them. This is the main reason why a large proportion of VPN services don’t allow access to the BBC. It requires the companies limiting the number of users on each server, rotation of the IP addresses and keeping all these hidden and low profile.

Not many VPN companies do this as it does take a lot of effort and expertise. Firstly it can be expensive, limiting the number of users on each server increase the costs significantly. This is primarily the reason why most servers get blocked by the BBC and other media sites as the huge concurrent use is the easiest way to detect the use of VPN connections. The budget VPN companies slash prices by throwing as many users onto each server as possible.

The good news is that the professional VPN companies who do ensure their servers aren’t overloaded only cost a little more. What’s more they will be significantly faster too, which is ideal for streaming video.  I use Identity Cloaker because it works reliably with the BBC and the servers are very fast but there are others that work well.  The important point to remember is that the method still works perfectly well and has done for over decade.   You just have to find a provider who ensures that that the servers aren’t overloaded or blocked by the BBC.

Reference:

One Planet Seven Worlds Release Date : October 27th, 2019

 

Is a Residential VPN Service Essential in 2019?

If you’d asked about a residential VPN service 12 months ago not many people would know what you were talking about. Although there were a few companies like Storm Proxies a residential IP provider mainly supplying addresses for use in the UK and USA. They were mainly used for people seeking that little extra privacy and in the SEO and internet marketing arenas for promoting sites and using marketing tools. However having access to a residential IP address is becoming important in another areas – bypassing region blocks.

What Exactly is a Residential VPN ?

There’s two parts to this question, most of us have probably used a VPN but that vast majority have standard IP addresses from commercial ranges.  However residential proxies and VPNs have IP addresses from residential range.  The likelihood is that your standard internet connection almost certainly already have one. If you go to any of the check my IP address type sites and look at your public IP address, it’s normally been assigned by your internet provider. Your modem or router will be assigned this by your ISP to establish your internet connection. Here’s mine, heavily censored obviously –

Residential vpn service

Residential IP Address

– it is assigned by British Telecom, whom I have the misfortune to be a customer, they allocate that address and it’s pretty much out of my control.    The address can be classified as a UK Residential IP Address and that in itself has many implications for example;

  • Can Watch BBC iPlayer and all UK TV channels
  • Blocked Access if I try and watch Hulu or NBC
  • Search Engines Set to UK Results
  • Netflix will Route to the UK version only

That’s only the start but it gives you an idea about how your IP address controls what you can do online.  Of course, many people weren’t happy about all this filtering, blocking and redirection.  They wanted to watch the BBC News when on holiday, watch the rugby from Ireland and knew that the US version of Netflix was way better than any other one.

Here’s one in action –

The solution was simple enough – to hide your real IP address and instead relay your connection through a proxy or VPN service.  This was a perfect way to access any web site you liked, especially as most of the best services offered a range of servers in different countries.   At the click of a button you could switch from a UK address to watch the BBC, then switch to a US server to enjoy your Hulu subscription.

The important thing was having access to a server physically located in the country you needed, nothing else mattered – until now.  

Unfortunately it looks like it’s going to get much more complicated in the future and we can probably thank the media giant Netflix for this.  In a few short weeks they have effectively blocked 99% of the VPN servers used to access their site.   Not only have Netflix blocked access based on the location of the IP address, they have also restricted any connections from commercial IP addresses.   The problem is virtually every VPN service uses a commercial IP address as they are housed in data centers across the world.   You can get residential VPNs from specialist providers but they are extremely expensive, suppliers like proxyrack you usually have to go on a waiting list to get a residential VPN.

There are Very Few Residential VPN USA Available Anywhere

It doesn’t matter how advanced your VPN or proxy solution is, if it doesn’t have a residential IP address there’s some tasks which are going to get blocked automatically.     These residential IP addresses however are mostly reserved for domestic customers – you can get one easily for your home connection but it’s very difficult to get a range to support VPN services in different countries.  You definitely can’t just buy residential IPs to use like you can with standard commercial address ranges.   The other worry is that when other media companies see the huge success that Netflix has had in blocking VPN access they are likely to follow suit.

dns-trick

Many platforms now distinguish between connections originating from these different IP ranges.  Nearly all the large social media platforms for instance automatically detect these.  This doesn’t mean that you’ll get blocked from a commercial range after all lots of people use these platforms from work or from commercial networks.  What it does mean is that your account or connection will be flagged as originating from this sort of range.  Many people who promote or manage numerous Instagram accounts have reported issues until they’ve started routing their accounts through private residential proxies.

Finding a VPN Network with Lots of residential IPs

There is some hope,  Identity Cloaker  have come up with a solution by integrating residential US IP addresses into their infrastructure.  They are not used all the time, but merely when a connection is made to the Netflix site – it is automatically routed through a US residential VPN.  You can see this working in this video rather confusingly called Using a Proxy for Netflix which shows how a UK viewer can access the US version of Netflix through a VPN without issues.  They have limited numbers though, so this solution is not suitable for managing multiple accounts or high volume activites.

For access to US Netflix from anywhere try out the . and see how well it works for all the world’s major media sites including US Netflix.

If  you want any volume of residential IP addresses for running SEO tools, Bots for buying from various sites and similar then you’ll need to go direct to the residential vpn providers.   The problem is a single IP address is ok for watching a movie but pretty much useless for any sort of automated tool, in fact you’re going to need access to a significant amount to stop them being banned.  The best providers have a variety of systems to make this accessible including rotating and backconnect proxies which effectively rotate the IP address automatically.

Here’s the best one by far, which you can test out for 48 hours without commitment

Storm