How to Stream Video Outside the UK Using VPN and SmartDNS
Have you ever been outside the UK, tried to access BBC iPlayer and got the message; “BBC iPlayer is not yet available in your region?” On other restricted websites, you’ll be told, “Sorry this content is not currently available in your region.” Even if you’re currently an iPlayer subscriber, if you were to travel outside the UK, try accessing your iPlayer account and you’ll get the same message.
This is called geo-blocking. In fact, a quick check of the iPlayer website will tell you that iPlayer is currently only available in about 13 countries, most of them located in Western Europe except Canada and Australia.
Is geo-blocking legal?
The short answer is YES. Copyright laws give content owners a series of rights over the material they create, which includes the right to copy or broadcast the material.
Take a look at the Terms of Service (TOS) of most websites that geo-block content, for example. You’ll find that they have clearly stated that certain content is only accessible to consumers from selected regions. Some even have additional checks such as demanding a zip/post code or a credit card billing address from the particular country, and others demand phone number verifications before granting access to certain content.
Geo-blocking regulations dictate that if iPlayer is blocked in China, then attempting to access the iPlayer website from China would be in breach of the iPlayer TOS. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a UK citizen. The fact that you’re currently in a geo-blocked location means you shouldn’t be watching iPlayer. Even if you’re currently subscribed to iPlayer, you cannot legally access the website from a geo-blocked location. Often, this could lead to termination of access to the service or a liability under the TOS.
Whether or not the laws will change remains to be seen.
Fortunately, you can still watch iPlayer outside the UK!
Even with geo-blocking in place, you can still watch your favorite UK channels, easily and conveniently. All you need is a SmartDNS or VPN.
VPN and SmartDNS are both popular methods of bypassing restrictions to access blocked content. Subscribing to a VPN service will allow you to watch even other services such as Netflix movies and Roku on BBC Sport. However, SmartDNS is just as effective.
The best 3 VPNs and best 3 SmartDNS products in the UK
Since Britains discovered that they could easily watch Netflix, BBC iPlayer and other blocked content using VPN and SmartDNS, the conversation has shifted drastically. People are no longer worried about missing out on “House of Cards.” If anything, Netflix and Hulu lovers who reside in the UK can now look forward to Friday night movies with excitement. Why not when you have so many VPN and SmartDNS providers to choose from?
Unfortunately, that’s where the problem lies; with so many providers, how do you go about choosing a VPN or SmartDNS? In the UK alone there are more than a dozen SmartDNS providers and at least two-dozen VPN service companies. How do you choose the best one?
Well, first it’s important to appreciate that all VPN and SmartDNS providers try to achieve the same thing – internet freedom. The services often only differ in terms of; price, connection speeds, and customer experience. For instance, if you’re more concerned about speed than encryption, you may choose a SmartDNS with very fast speeds and no encryption. On the other hand, if your connection has to be totally secure, then you might choose a VPN with 256-bit encryption even if the speeds are slower.
However, everything considered (speed, encryption, number of servers, server locations, support for mobile devices, number of devices supported at once, P2P bit torrent download support, and so on), here are the best 3 VPN and SmartDNS products available for UK users.
Best 3 VPNs for UK
- Company Location: British Virgin Islands
- IPs: 15.000+
- Countries: 78
- Money Back Guarantee: 30 Days
- Company Location: USA
- IPs: 40000 IPs
- Countries: 60
- Money Back Guarantee: 7 Days
1. Express VPN ($8.31/mo)
Pros: great apps for all major platforms, no usage logs, excellent speeds, servers in 78 countries, 30-day money-back guarantee.
Cons: Only two simultaneous connections
Anyone who has tried Express VPN will agree that this is probably the best VPN in the market at the moment. It is actually also the most popular and successful VPN. Headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, Express VPN has an unparalleled customer service with 24/7 live chat and technicians always waiting to respond to your support tickets. That they have servers across 78 countries, keep no usage logs, and provide a very generous 30-day money back guarantee only makes Express VPN one of if not the best VPN service you can subscribe to.
2. Hide My Ass VPN ($6.55/mo)
Pros: It has no cap for bandwidth; has more than 70,000 IPs; compatible with a wide variety of devices; access BBC, BBC iPlayer, ITV, UKTV etc
Cons: Live support isn’t as good
If you’re not purchasing Express VPN, then the closest alternative is Hide My Ass VPN (HMA). HMA is one of the pioneers of the VPN industry. Yet that’s just a complement; the main reason HMA is so popular is because it has the most servers (831+) for any VPN and is the most widely available across the globe with servers in 175 countries.
3. Pure VPN ($4.16/mo)
Pros: 64+ VPns for the UK alone, 450+ servers in 100+ countries, feature-rich package, no cap on bandwidth, split tunneling.
Cons: no free trial, 3-day money back period is too short
If you’re only talking about the UK, then Pure VPN is probably the best. They have 64+ servers in the UK alone which is just amazing. But it doesn’t stop at that; Pure VPN has 450+ servers in more than 100 countries.
Best 3 SmartDNS for UK
- Countries: 16
- Money Back Guarantee: 7 Days Free Trial + 14 Days
1. Unlocator ($4.95/mo)
Pros: excellent ticket support, fast and easy set up, free trial and money back
Cons: no live support
The Danish based DNS Company has scaled the heights pretty fast and now boasts at least 182 unblocked channels in 80+ countries which is just incredible. They have a set of 68 unique instructions to get your specific device functioning properly. They currently don’t offer live support but they respond to support tickets promptly.
2. Smart DNS Proxy ($4.90/mo)
Pros: 14-day free trial period, 30-day money back guarantee, fast and easy set-up.
Cons: doesn’t support Bitcoin,
SmartDNSProxy is another very good Smart DNS company. It helps you unlock several popular websites including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Vevo as well as 133+ music and video streaming websites in 32 countries including iPlayer, Hulu, and Netflix. Apart from the $4.90/mo plan, they also have a 12-month plan at only $2.08/mo.
3. Over Play DNS (4.95/mo)
Pros: lots of supported channels and devices, 24/7 customer support, 14-day money back guarantee, tells you clearly which channels can be blocked on which device.
Cons: not any worth mentioning
Over play is one of the fastest growing VPN providers with servers in 48 countries. They provide two categories of services; Smart DNS and Global VPN. The Smart DNS is priced at $4.95 and allows users to browse with no loss of speed and without bandwidth limits. It is compatible with all operating systems as well as most internet-linked devices such as Xbox 360, PS3 and so on.
Now go ahead and choose a VPN or SmartDNS provider!
SmartDNS in particular is very good for streaming video and watching blocked content outside the UK. This is because unlike VPNs, setting up the SmartDNS merely involves changing your DNS IP. It means you don’t have to connect to a server located in the UK in order to access UK content. This often leads to faster speeds which is invaluable when streaming content. In fact, compared 1 v. 1, SmartDNS is the better option if you’re just interested in streaming content online.
VPN vs. SmartDNS: Which is better for streaming video outside the UK?
Well, Smart DNS is a protocol that is used to re-route traffic used in identifying your location. Unlike VPN, SmartDNS does not hide the user’s IP address nor does it encrypt connections. If you want to try SmartDNS – check out Free Smart DNS.
A VPN service on the other hand creates a tunnel that changes or masks your IP address so that websites tracking you will see as if you’re accessing the internet from a different location. This is very different from SmartDNS which functions as more of a “trick” by changing your DNS so that websites think you’re eligible.
These differences often extend to connection speeds. With SmartDNS, packets don’t have to travel long distances to reach a server location. Therefore a SmartDNS service router will give you most of the services a VPN can offer including unblocking websites, and watching Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Pandora, without the potential disadvantage of slower speeds.
- Easy to setup – you just have to sign-up, get a username and password, and follow the instructions.
- All your traffic is encrypted and masked – basically speaking, no one can eavesdrop on you.
- Also nobody can see what Websites you browse – Tor Marketplaces, VR Porn, Dating Sites – noone will know.
- VPN has apps for iOS, Android, and Mac – this makes it usable on just about any device.
- Unblock unlimited websites – as long as you use a VPN server located in the UK, you can access just about any website and watch streaming videos from the UK without restrictions.
- Slower connection – though most VPN providers promise fast speeds, connections are generally slower compared to SmartDNS
- Use on any device – all you need to do is change the DNS IP on your devices or your router.
- Easy to set up – you simply have to sign up, authorize your IP, and change the IP.
- Internet speeds not affected – compared to VPN, SmartDNS speeds are much faster.
- Supports many devices – these include the iPad, Android, Smart TV, PS 3&4, Xbox One & 360 and many others.
- Not all sites work – for instance, Unlocator doesn’t support Netflix, Pandora, and Amazon Instant Video. among others.
As you can see, content owners are actually allowed to restrict access to whatever they create. If iPlayer feels its content shouldn’t be accessible from outside the UK, they have the legal right to block such access.
However, that shouldn’t stop you from watching iPlayer and other UK channels outside the UK. Just set up VPN or SmartDNS on your router and you can start enjoying your favorite UK channels again! And yes, you can use the same router to access as many geo-blocked websites as you wish.
How to set up SmartDNS on your router
It’s very easy to set up SmartDNS on your router especially if you’re using a router that is upgraded with the latest DD-WRT firmware. And, once you set up SmartDNS on your router, any device that runs through the router will be utilizing SmartDNS.
This means you can have several devices simultaneously connected. So, just set up SmartDNS on your router and you can connect the Roku 3, Apple TV, iPhones and so much more, simultaneously – no individual set ups. Just one set up and you’re ready.
The following steps should help you set up your SmartDNS router;
- Log into your router admin area
- Click “Set up”
- Select “Basic setup”
- Fill in the “Static DNS” fields. The information you use in this step should be those provided by the SmartDNS provider.
- Check the “Use DNSMasq for DNS” area.
- Click “Apply Settings.” The computer will restart.
- That’s it! Enjoy.
How to set up VPN on your router
As you will learn shortly, the VPN is also very effective for streaming geo-blocked content from outside the UK.
Maybe it’s important to point out that you can actually set up VPN on your computer very easily by downloading and installing a VPN client.
However, there are several advantages of installing VPN on your router.
- You can access iPlayer and other services directly from your Smart TV as is you were accessing the internet from within the UK.
- You don’t need to turn on your computer or connect it to the TV
- You won’t need to connect and disconnect the VPN client every time you want to stream content.
- You can connect multiple devices to the router without the need for separate software
Remember to choose your routers wisely. The best routers are those which come with a VPN client as part of the firmware. The 3 most popular routers for VPN are the Asus RT-N16, the Netgear Nighthawk R700, and the TomatoUSB Asus RT-N66U.
There are several ways of setting up VPN on your router but we will go with the simplest of them.
- Login to your router’s interface from your browser. The default username/password is admin/admin and the default IP is 192.168.1.1.
- Once logged in, go to “WAN > WAN Connection Type > PPTP.” (PPTP is one of the many VPN protocols).
- Continue the set up by completing the following steps; Enable WAN: YES, Enable UPnP: YES, Enable NAT: YES, Connect to DNS Automatically: NO, Get WAN IP Automatically: YES.
- Then set the DNS servers to; DNS 1: 188.8.131.52, and DNS 2: 184.108.40.206. (The two are freely available DNS servers from OpenDNS.)
- Further down on the same form, fill in your VPN account settings and the IP address of the server you’re connecting to. You can easily get the IP from your VPN provider.
- Go to the VPN control panel and select, “Download and Setup > PPTP&L2TP > Instructions.” This should take you to the setup page with all your personalized login details.
- You’ll see a lot of servers to choose from. Scroll down until you see UK servers and select one. A quick tip is to choose the fastest server available.
- Go back to the Router WAN setup and enter the PPTP username and password as required.
- Finally, enter the IP address of the VPN server
- Click “Apply” to confirm the changes.
That’s it! You just set up your VPN router. You may want to check your IP location by going to whatsmyipaddress.com.