We analyze five key decision-making factors when testing VPNs for BBC iPlayer, in order to calculate an overall use-case rating.
In this section, we’ll detail our exact testing process to select the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer.
For BBC iPlayer specifically, we test:
- If the VPN consistently unblocks BBC iPlayer from outside the UK.
- Average download speeds connecting into the UK.
- How many UK VPN servers are available, and how good they are.
- Compatibility with media streaming devices, including Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, and games consoles.
- The quality and availability of live customer support.
Below is the complete list of factors we test to recommend VPNs for BBC iPlayer, along with how much of our overall rating they make up:
1. BBC iPlayer Access: 40%
Minimum Requirement: Access to BBC iPlayer on some UK servers.
We Recommend: Consistent access to BBC iPlayer on all UK servers.
The ability to reliably and consistently unblock BBC iPlayer is of course the most important factor, so it makes up the majority of our rating.
We regularly test every VPN service on multiple devices and test access to BBC iPlayer ourselves.
We use this first-hand testing to record the number of times a VPN can unblock BBC iPlayer in a given period, and on how many servers.
The most effective VPNs will work on the majority of UK servers, and will also unblock other streaming services like Netflix.
2. Speed: 20%
Minimum Requirement: Less than 45% speed loss on connections into the UK.
We Recommend: Less than 30% speed loss on connections into the UK.
Connection speeds are especially important for streaming because it is a high-bandwidth activity.
To stream in HD without buffering, you’ll need unlimited bandwidth and as little speed loss as possible.
We routinely test every VPN’s average download speed when connected to UK servers from Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.
This gives us accurate data that reflects the speeds you’ll experience streaming BBC iPlayer from abroad with a VPN.
3. Number of UK Servers: 15%
Minimum Requirement: A good selection of UK servers.
We Recommend: A large selection servers in UK cities, with dedicated streaming servers.
The best iPlayer VPNs invest significant resources into unblocking the BBC’s streaming service.
They’ll have many UK VPN servers with thousands of IP addresses, or dedicated streaming servers regularly refreshed to avoid VPN bans.
The fewer UK VPN servers there are, the more congested the network will be, resulting in slower speeds.
A large number of servers also means more IP addresses, making it much harder for the BBC to detect and block your VPN.
4. Streaming Device Compatibility: 15%
Minimum Requirement: Native applications for Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS.
We Recommend: Native apps for the above devices, as well as a Firestick app, browser extensions, and Smart DNS.
Device compatibility is also a key part of our rating. A VPN with many native applications lets you stream BBC iPlayer on most devices.
Top-rated VPNs are available on Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, and additional devices like home routers, Smart TVs, and Fire TV Stick.
We also test useful additional features like split tunneling, browser extensions, and other bespoke tools like Smart DNS. Smart DNS lets you bypass geo-blocks on Smart TVs and games consoles.
5. Customer Support: 10%
Minimum Requirement: Email support and an online knowledge-base.
We Recommend: Useful 24/7 live chat and email support.
Customer support is also important, particularly for temperamental streaming services like BBC iPlayer.
We use email and live-chat to test the quality of assistance on offer from every VPN provider.
This is to make sure you’ll be able to get the technical help you need if your VPN stops working with BBC iPlayer.
Live chat or responsive email support are both rewarded, while slow and ineffective customer support are rated lower.
Other Key Testing Areas
Though they are not always part of our overall rating, there are certain indicators of quality that we factor into every VPN recommendation.
We expect every VPN to provide basic levels of security including AES-256 encryption, IP and DNS leak protection, and the OpenVPN protocol.
It’s also important that every service is simple to use for beginners and experts.
We analyze every VPN application in-depth to make sure it has a user-friendly interface and settings.
We reward customization and configuration options, as long as they come in an easily-understood format.
Finally, we consider the price of the service. We give higher ratings to VPNs offering valuable features for a below-average price.
Data Cap Penalty: Up to 50% Reduction
Nearly all free VPNs come with a data cap. As is the case with most limitations on free VPNs, this is implemented to encourage users to upgrade to the premium service.
This data cap will limit the amount of movies and TV shows you can watch on BBC iPlayer.
We apply a penalty to the VPN’s final overall BBC iPlayer rating based on its data cap:
- 10GB per month: -20% to the overall rating
- 500MB per day: -25% to the overall rating
- 5GB per month: -30% to the overall rating
- 1GB per month: -35% to the overall rating
- 200MB per day: -40% to the overall rating
- 500MB per month: -50% to the overall rating