What Is BBC iPlayer?
BBC iPlayer is a famous platform that allows you to watch BBC programs online. Specifically, it is a streaming, television, catchup, and radio service launched by BBC. Similar to Netflix, Hulu, and other popular streaming platforms, BBC iPlayer covers a wide range of different operating systems and devices.
Before its initial launch in December 2007, BBC iPlayer faced a lot of backlash from potential users due to frequent delays and persistent technical and rebranding issues. The original service was launched in October 2005 – and it took it two full years of trials performed by broadband users to go live.
Prior to September 2016, BBC iPlayer users were not required to have a valid TV license in order to enjoy its television and/or radio programs. Nowadays, regardless of whether they are interested in live or on-demand content, users need to have a license. Although rather strict, this measure still utilizes a trust system without any specific detection measures. Additionally, users now have to sign in with their BBC ID account in order to stream any content, except for CBBC and CBeebies.
The biggest problem with accessing BBC iPlayer content is the fact that, as of 2011, its TV programs are accessible only from IP addresses located in the UK.
How To Access BBC iPlayer Outside The UK?
BBC iPlayer content cannot be streamed outside the UK, which creates several problems. First, people who do not live in the UK are not able to access anything, except for a couple of radio channels. More importantly, however, Brits with valid TV licenses are unable to access BBC programs from abroad, even though they have already paid for the service. The current cost of the license is 150£ for color and 50£ for black&white TVs.
However, there are a couple of ways to bypass this inconvenience. You can either use a VPN or a Smart DNS service. Apart from this, Xbox and PS4 also allow you to tinker with DNS settings by manually entering primary and secondary DNS numbers.
Smart DNS Vs. VPN For Unblocking BBC iPlayer
Both a VPN and a Smart DNS can allow you to access any type all geo-locked content, but they are quite different services and deserve separate explanations. Once you understand how they operate, you can make an informed decision and get the best option for your specific needs and preferences.
In order to use a VPN, you need to install a small piece of software on your device. Then, you will use the VPN client to select the optimal server location in the UK. Once you click “connect,” you will be able to use the Internet as if you were actually physically located in the UK. If you live in Germany, for example, and you want BBC iPlayer to think that you are actually in the UK, simply pick a UK server and you are good to go.
In order to geo-spoof popular online platforms, your VPN will create an encrypted tunnel through which all of your data will be passed. This means that 100% of your Internet traffic will be completely encrypted even before it leaves your device. Once your VPN encrypts your communication, the data will be sent to the UK server you selected. When it reaches the server, your traffic will be decrypted and sent to its original location. Bottom line, since your traffic is encrypted until it reaches the selected server, the server will appear as the origination point of that data, which is basically how geo-unlocking works with VPNs.
Bypassing region locks is just one of the many benefits offered by solid encryption. Additionally, it will prevent malicious third parties from observing your Internet activities, hide your P2P traffic from unofficial sources, protect your privacy from prying eyes, including your ISP and the government, and prevent anyone from tracking you.
A Smart DNS service works quite differently from a VPN. First of all, it will not encrypt your online traffic or conceal your IP address.
In order to understand how a Smart DNS system really works, you first have to know what a DNS server is. DNS is an acronym that stands for “domain name system,” which refers to the manner in which Internet domain names (like thevpnlab.com) are translated into IPs that your device connects to. In other words, the DNS system will link the address you type into your search bar to a numerical address that holds the content of that particular website. In most cases, people use the DNS server provided by their ISP since it is usually geographically close and can handle all the requests you send for domain names.
With that out of the way, let us see how a Smart DNS service actually works. Instead of using the local DNS server provided by your ISP, your connection will be managed through a provider-owned DNS that will direct your traffic to a proxy server. In other words, for a fee, the company will redirect some of your Internet traffic through its proprietary DNS server.
Basically, a Smart DNS actually tricks websites into believing that you are accessing them from a geographically viable location. Instead of BBC iPlayer identifying your real address in the US, for example, it will think that you are accessing it from the UK.
Should You Use A VPN Or DNS?
Top-tier VPNs and Smart DNS services work with all the popular streaming platforms, so it all comes down to your personal preferences. However, VPNs also encrypt your online traffic and mask your real IP, which is an obvious advantage.
On the other hand, encryption and additional security and privacy measures will slow down your connection speed, so if your Internet speed is subpar, a Smart DNS may be a better solution for you.
Bottom line, both types of services will allow you to unlock BBC iPlayer, but depending on your situation, one will be clearly superior over the other. You should opt for a VPN if you:
- Want additional online privacy & security
- Have a fast Internet connection
- Are not overly tech savvy
You should, however, opt for a DNS if you:
- Just want to unblock geo-restricted content without extra security
- Have a slower connection
- Do not mind tinkering with DNS settings
What Makes A Good VPN For BBC iPlayer?
Like many other popular streaming platforms, BBC iPlayer wages a never-ending war against VPNs and other unblocking services. Its team of experts is constantly working on finding new ways to recognize and block VPN traffic altogether. As a result of this effort, many VPNs that could bypass its geo-restrictions in the past are no longer able to do so. Unblocking BBC iPlayer simply became too costly and time-consuming, so many of the reputable VPN providers just gave up.
Our list of the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer contains VPN providers that have traditionally been able to go around any types of regional limitations and continue to elude the best efforts of the team behind BBC iPlayer to this day. They all put a lot of money and effort into allowing their customers to stream this platform outside of its country of origin while meeting our rigorous set of ranking criteria.
Without further ado, let us see what makes the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer:
Large Server Network
Connecting to BBC iPlayer is much trickier than accessing Netflix US, for example, since you only have UK servers to work with. Even if you cannot access Netflix US, you can probably still stream the UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, and other versions. On the other hand, if BBC iPlayer flags all your UK servers, you are pretty much done with this platform.
This is why it is extremely important that your chosen provider has a wide range of VPN servers located in the UK, so even if a couple of them get flagged, there will still be a lot more for you to connect through.
Fast Connection Speeds
Streaming is a very demanding operation, especially if you want to watch your favorite content in high definition. We all know how lag and buffering can ruin the whole experience.
Apart from this, every piece of software that encrypts your Internet traffic will affect your total connection speed, at least to a degree. VPNs coming from reputable sources will keep this drop to a minimum. Therefore, if you want to avoid any lagging issues, you need to pick a provider with high-speed VPN servers that will not grind your native connection speed down to a halt.
Solid Privacy & Security
One of the main perks of using a VPN is the software’s ability to encrypt your traffic and mask your real IP address. Apart from allowing you to geo-spoof BBC iPlayer, this also protects you from any malicious third parties and prevents anybody, including your ISP and the government, from snooping around your connection. Ideally, this is also paired with a strict no-logging policy.
Multiple Simultaneous Connections
Every modern household uses a minimum of two to three devices at any given point, so it is also important that you can cover all of them with one VPN at the same time. Reputable VPN providers always allow for multiple simultaneous connections, so nobody will have to wait their turn or browse the Internet unprotected while you are streaming the latest British news.
In order to do some actual work, the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer also have to be compatible with your chosen device(s). Therefore, we are looking for services that cover as many different platforms as possible.
Best VPNs For BBC iPlayer
After exposing all the major VPN services to our merciless battery of tests, we comprised the ultimate list of the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer and ranked them based on their overall performance. Read our mini-reviews below for more information.
BBC iPlayer is one of the most popular streaming platforms that can only be accessed from the UK unless you hide your true location with a reliable geo-spoofing VPN like Surfshark.
Although rather young, Surfshark is already an established brand on the market, thanks to its excellent combination of speed, security, and favorable location without any mandatory data retention laws. On top of this, the company never keeps any activity logs, including the sites you visit and your interaction with them.
During our in-house testing, we were able to access and stream BBC iPlayer outside of the UK without any problems. We were honestly surprised by the speed of the servers and the lack of any performance fluctuations.
Apart from its geo-spoofing capabilities, Surfshark comes with a comprehensive security package, including IKEv2 and OpenVPN protocols, AES-256 encryption, an ad/malware/tracking blocker, and a reliable auto killswitch. The Whitelister app allows you to run programs without VPN protection, which is especially useful for banking applications. The Camouflage feature, on the other hand, prevents any online entity (including your ISP) from detecting your VPN traffic.
At the moment, Surfshark features more than 1,000 servers across 60+ countries and allows unlimited simultaneous connections.
NordVPN is a Panama-based provider, which is probably one of the best VPN locations in the world, far from any intrusive legislation efforts as well as international spying networks. It currently operates around 5,100 VPN servers across 62 countries, 500+ of which are located in the UK. NordVPN is not known for amazing connection speeds, but it performs well enough. We were able to stream BBC iPlayer without any major problems.
NordVPN is the only service of its kind that offers double AES-256 encryption. In other words, it is literally impossible for anyone to interfere with your connection or monitor your Internet traffic. When it comes to connection protocols, it supports OpenVPN, PPTP, SSTP, L2TP, and IPSec. DNS leak protection and an auto killswitch are included in the package. All this is paired with a strict no-logging policy.
The software supports up to 6 simultaneous connections and is compatible with Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Chrome/Firefox (extension), Raspberry Pi, routers, Fire TV, and many other platforms.
NordVPN comes with a full 30-day money-back guarantee.
CyberGhost is a Romanian VPN provider, recently acquired by an Israeli company called Crossrider. Ever since it joined Crossrider, CyberGhost has started receiving some heavy investments, which made an already decent VPN even better.
CyberGhost currently has more than 4,600 VPN servers in 60+ countries, 300+
of which are located in London and Manchester. An added benefit of using CyberGhost is that you can always check which server is online and how many customers are using it.
Apart from encrypting your traffic with AES-256 cipher, CyberGhost covers OpenVPN, IKEv2, PPTP, and L2TP/IPSec connection protocols. It also features DNS and IP leak protection, an automatic killswitch, and a strict no-logging policy.
CyberGhost allows up to 7 simultaneous connections, which is beyond impressive. It supports Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Routers, and other platforms.
If you are not completely satisfied with CyberGhost, you can ask for a full refund within 45 days of the initial purchase (14 days for monthly plans).
ExpressVPN is currently the best VPN service when it comes to the ability to unblock BBC iPlayer. It currently features more than 3,000 super-fast VPN servers in 160+ cities and 90+ countries, including 6 server locations in the UK, all of which work perfectly fine with BBC iPlayer. Using ExpressVPN minimally affected our connection speed, so we were able to stream content in the highest quality available.
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, which have no connection to the UK, except for the actual word “British.” It encrypts your traffic via AES-256 cipher and offers OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, and SSTP connection protocols. It also protects you against DNS leaks and has a reliable automatic killswitch feature. The company does not keep any logs whatsoever.
The software allows up to 3 simultaneous connection, which is ideal for our modern needs. It supports Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Routers, Chrome/Firefox/Safari (browser extensions), Apple TV, Fire TV, Smart TV, PlayStation, Android TV Box, and many more.
ExpressVPN comes with a full 30-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked.
TorGuard is a respected VPN service incorporated in the US. Its location should not worry you, as it features an airtight no-logging policy. The company features more than 3,000 servers in 50+ countries, unlimited speeds and bandwidth, and even TorGuard Stealth Proxy. The overall connection speed was beyond impressive, even with the strongest security setup.
TorGuard allows you to choose between no encryption (for maximum speed), Blowfish-256 CBC, AES-128, and AES-256, paired with RSA-2048 handshake and SHA-512 authentication, which is a very solid security configuration according to today’s standards. As far as connection protocols are concerned, it covers OpenVPN, SSTP, and L2TP/IPSec. DNS leak protection is also implemented, alongside a reliable automatic killswitch.
You can connect up to 5 devices at the same time and the software is compatible with Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, routers, and many other platforms.
TorGuard comes with a 7-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked.
PrivateVPN is an increasingly popular VPN provider incorporated in Sweden. It has become famous for its impressive speeds and guaranteed uninterrupted connections. At the moment, it offers more than 150 servers across 60 countries, including 5 servers in London and 1 in Manchester. This is paired with a strict no-logging policy.
PrivateVPN encrypts user traffic via AES-256 cipher, RSA-2048 handshake, and SHA-256 authentication. It supports OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, HTTP Proxy, IPSec, and SOCKS5. It also features reliable DNS leak protection and an automatic killswitch.
The software allows up to 6 simultaneous connections and currently supports Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. PrivateVPN comes with a full 30-day money-back guarantee.