VPN – Just for Watching TV Abroad?

VPN – Just for Watching TV Abroad?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is defined by whatis.com as:

“A technology that creates an encrypted connection over a less secure network. The benefit of using a secure VPN is it ensures the appropriate level of security to the connected systems when the underlying network infrastructure alone cannot provide it.”

This means that you create a network between multiple devices, similar to a LAN (Local Area Network) over unspecified distances, using a WAN (Wide Area Network – i.e. the internet). This allows you access to secure information from another location as the devices have a secure connection. The benefit of this is that a businessman in China could access documents or remote access a computer in America.

This is a common practice for businesses, especially as by using encryption and other security measures, the network is “virtually” private and so there is little risk of breaching.

VPN Streaming

For anyone who has tried to use BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD or any other region or national specific content (Americans may be more familiar with Netflix or Hulu) in a country other than which it is licensed will find VPN’s of use.


By connecting to another private network in another location, any websites you visit will come to you via this location and thus the verification process will assume you are located somewhere different. If you were in Ukraine and wanted to watch the BBC, if you connect to a British VPN you will have full access to the media as the BBC server will recognise your location as in the UK.
All of this seems pretty straight forward. The reality is it is a little more complicated. Setting up a VPN is something you would be best served getting advice on. However, for purposes such as the example above, there are a number of VPN sites available which will let you use their systems. Typically the free ones are slower and more troublesome but with determination, you should find something that will work.

Opera’s web browser’s latest update hit the scenes in the last week. Included in the core offering is a built-in, free unlimited data, VPN selector; allowing you to change the location you appear to be surfing the web from. The locations Opera has included are: Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore and United States.

So sadly no United Kingdom yet, but who knows what the future holds with this feature, although it is unlikely to provide you with the media streaming you desire. Less than a week after release and it is already reported on The Verge that Netflix has blocked the Opera proxy servers. This doesn’t take away from the added security benefits that Opera can now provide for day to day browsing. They have also included a new ad-blocker as standard and battery saving mode.

Whilst Opera is a small fish compared to the household names, they are certainly taking affirmative action to capture more of the market share.

The Problem With VPN Usage In This Way

Importantly the use of VPN’s in this way can not be condoned. Companies like the BBC have chosen to restrict access to their streaming service with good reason. The BBC has a set amount of funding with which to provide this service and as such a limited budget for hosting capabilities. Despite this, thanks to VPN’s, in 2015 more than 60 million shows were streamed from the BBC in other countries. This lowers the quality of service that the UK TV licence payer receives and also the budget that they have towards producing shows. So whilst you might think this a victimless crime, there are definitely repercussions.

Stephen Collins