BBC Sounds not working abroad

If you’re trying to listen to certain sporting events on BBC Sounds, outside the UK, they might not work.

This is because customers outside the UK are sometimes blocked by the BBC, depending on where it has the rights to broadcast the sporting event.

Fortunately, a reliable Virtual Private Network (VPN) will allow you to listen to any sporting event on the platform, anywhere in the world.

While you won’t need a VPN to listen to the majority of the stations or programmes on BBC Sounds, sometimes the BBC doesn’t have the rights to broadcast certain events outside the UK. And if you’re trying to listen to one of those events, the best way to do it is with a VPN.

In this article I’ll explain how to listen to BBC Sounds abroad so you can hear every major sporting event broadcast on the service.

How to fix BBC sounds not working abroad: Guide

Total Time: 2 minutes

  1. Create a new account with ExpressVPN or NordVPN

    BBC Sounds not working abroad

    Register for an account with ExpressVPN or NordVPN. If you want the very best, these VPNs have been setting the standard in the industry for years. They’re the best VPNs on the market for reliably streaming content.

    ExpressVPN and NordVPN are renowned for their reliable and fast connections, which is crucial for streaming high-quality content without buffering or interruptions. You can get 3 months of an ExpressVPN subscription for free here. And similarly, you can get 3 months of a NordVPN subscription for free here.

    If you don’t like the looks of ExpressVPN or NordVPN, the steps below will be exactly the same.

  2. Download and install the new VPN app

    BBC Sounds not working abroad

    Once you’ve signed up for a VPN you can install it on nearly any device.

    ExpressVPN and NordVPN are available on Mac, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Kindle, Amazon Fire Stick/TV, Chromecast, Nintendo Switch, Android TV and more.

  3. Open your VPN and connect to a UK server

    BBC Sounds not working abroad

    When you open the app, you’ll need to log in with the credentials you created. Once logged in, select a server located in the UK. This step is crucial as the BBC will check your IP address to determine your location. And to listen to events that BBC Sounds doesn’t have the rights to be broadcast outside the UK, you need to have a UK IP address.

  4. Listen to BBC Sounds outside the UK

    BBC Sounds not working abroad

    Once you’re connected to a UK server, you will have access to all of the content available on BBC Sounds, just as if you were in the UK.

Why can’t I listen to BBC Sounds abroad?

You can listen to the vast majority of BBC Sounds while abroad, however it gets a bit trickier if you’re trying to listen to a live sporting event.

If you’re trying to listen to a sporting event outside the UK and it’s not working, BBC Sounds has blocked your connection. It does this because it doesn’t have the rights to broadcast that particular event outside the UK, and it blocks anyone overseas from listening to it.

If it didn’t do this, the BBC would be breaching the copyright and licensing agreements it has with its content partners and could face severe financial punishment.

The BBC doesn’t want this to happen, so it uses advanced blocking techniques to ensure no one outside the UK can access this sort of content.

How does the BBC block my connection?

This is all to do with your IP address.

An IP is a unique code allocated to your device whenever you go online. It’s used to form a communication link between your device and the website or app you’re visiting, in this case BBC Sounds.

The problem with this is in order for the communication to work, your IP address contains information regarding your location. For example, I’m in New Zealand, therefore my IP address will show I’m in New Zealand.

The BBC scans every IP address that connects to BBC Sounds to find this location information. If it finds you’re outside the UK, it blocks the connection.

How can I get around the BBC’s location blocks?

The easiest way to get around the BBC’s location-based IP blocks is to change the location of your IP address.

There’s a couple of ways to do this, you can use a proxy server and or a SmartDNS setup, however they can be quite complicated and technically challenging. We think the easiest way to listen to BBC Sounds outside the UK is with a reliable VPN.

All you have to do is open your chosen VPN, select a UK server and your IP address will now look like it’s in the UK. Now when you connect to BBC Sounds, it will scan your IP, think you’re in the UK and you’ll be able to listen to any sporting events, anywhere in the world.

It’s that easy.

Will any VPN work with BBC Sounds?


To use BBC Sounds with a VPN, it’s important to select a VPN service that effectively bypasses the geographical restrictions imposed by BBC Sounds. BBC Sounds, like many other streaming platforms, employs technology to detect and block VPNs, so not all VPN services may work. Here are some key considerations when choosing a VPN for BBC Sounds:

  1. Server Locations in the UK: Ensure the VPN has servers located in the UK. BBC Sounds checks your IP address to verify if you are in the UK, so you need a UK IP address to access its content.
  2. Ability to Bypass Geo-Restrictions: Look for a VPN known for bypassing geo-restrictions effectively. Some VPNs are better at avoiding detection by streaming services than others.
  3. Speed and Reliability: The VPN should offer fast and reliable connections. Streaming audio (and possibly video content from the BBC) requires a stable connection to prevent buffering and interruptions.
  4. Privacy and Security: Choose a VPN that has a strong privacy policy and uses robust encryption methods to keep your data secure.
  5. Good Reputation: Opt for a VPN with positive reviews and a good reputation among users, especially those who use it for streaming.

The VPN services we recommend for BBC Sounds outside the UK

1. ExpressVPN 🥈

The fastest and most reliable VPN of 2024

  • Physical servers in 104 countries
  • Brilliant for unblocking streaming services
  • Very high-speed Lightway protocol
  • Available on almost any device
  • Very secure
  • Pricey
  • Only 8 simultaneous devices
  • No addons
ExpressVPN

Streaming: ExpressVPN’s high-speed servers make it ideal for streaming BBC Sounds without buffering, ensuring a smooth audio experience. Its strong encryption and privacy features also mean you can listen securely, even on public Wi-Fi.

Servers: ExpressVPN’s servers in the UK are specifically engineered to avoid detection by BBC Sounds, ensuring consistent access to the service. These servers are optimized for audio streaming, providing clear and uninterrupted listening.

Privacy: ExpressVPN’s privacy measures include passing independent audits by cybersecurity firms like Cure53 and F-Secure, ensuring a strong level of security and no significant weaknesses in its macOS, Linux, and Windows apps. More details can be found in the audit reports available online.

Price: ExpressVPN offers three payment plans: a 1-month option at $12.95/month, a 6-month option at $9.99/month, and a 12-month option at $6.67/month. Payment methods include major credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, and other systems, accommodating a wide range of users.

Speeds: ExpressVPN maintains high download speeds with minimal drop-off, ensuring efficient performance. Tests showed a slight decrease in upload speeds, but download speeds remained fast across various server locations, including the US, UK, and Vietnam.

Download Speeds (Mbps)Upload Speeds (Mbps)
VPN off937.07520.93
ExpressVPN US server824.626.96
ExpressVPN UK server794.953.70
ExpressVPN Vietnam server761.903.81

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

2. NordVPN 🥇

An excellent, affordable, and fast VPN option for 2024

  • Affordable pricing
  • Effective streaming access
  • Diverse server types
  • Solid speeds
  • Useful add-ons
  • Strong security
  • Limited server locations
  • No virtual servers
NordVPN

Streaming: NordVPN’s extensive network of UK servers provides reliable access to BBC Sounds, with its advanced encryption ensuring your listening activity remains private and secure. Its SmartPlay technology automatically optimizes connections for streaming.

Servers: NordVPN’s vast array of UK servers means you can always find a high-speed connection for BBC Sounds, reducing load times and buffering. Its servers are equipped with technology to overcome geo-blocks effectively.

Privacy: NordVPN’s secure connection and no-logs policy have been verified via three independent audits, including one by Deloitte. The audits have confirmed NordVPN’s adherence to its no-logs policy, ensuring user privacy.

Price: NordVPN offers three pricing plans: Complete, Plus, and Standard. The 2-year plan for the Standard package is priced at $3.19/month, the 1-year plan at $4.99/month, and the monthly plan at $12.99/month. It accepts major credit cards and various payment systems.

Speeds: Below is a table showing the speeds tested for NordVPN. From our tests in New Zealand, NordVPN displayed very good speeds, although slightly behind ExpressVPN, but significantly faster than many other VPNs on the market.

Download Speeds (Mbps)Upload Speeds (Mbps)
No VPN (New Zealand)937.07520.93
NordVPN US server710.906.98
NordVPN UK server531.123.73

Read our full NordVPN review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

3. PureVPN 🥉

A mid-range VPN that balances performance and price

  • Affordable
  • Unblocks major streaming services
  • Use on up to 10 devices simultaneously
  • Streamlined user interface
  • No log audit verified by KPMG
  • Several free add-ons
  • Buffering on BBC iPlayer at peak times
  • Past concerns with “no log” policy
PureVPN

Streaming: PureVPN’s dedicated streaming mode and UK servers offer a seamless listening experience on BBC Sounds, with minimal buffering. The service’s strong encryption protects your privacy, allowing you to enjoy content securely.

Servers: PureVPN’s streaming-optimized servers in the UK provide fast and reliable access to BBC Sounds, with features designed to enhance audio streaming quality. These servers help in bypassing geo-restrictions effectively, ensuring you can listen from anywhere.

Privacy: PureVPN has faced criticism in the past for its privacy policies. However, it has recently undergone a no-log audit verified by KPMG in the past 12 months, aiming to reassure users about its commitment to privacy.

Price: PureVPN offers three payment options: a 1-month plan at $10.95/month, a 1-year plan at $3.74/month, and a 2-year plan at $1.96/month. PureVPN accepts all major credit cards, PayPal, and a variety of other digital payment options.

Speeds: Below is a table that gives you an idea of the speed performance you can expect when using PureVPN. The VPN has shown variable download speeds across different streaming servers, with some experiencing significant drop-offs during peak times.

Download Speeds (Mbps)Upload Speeds (Mbps)
No VPN189.44139.82
PureVPN UK Server24.3198.99
PureVPN US Server49.83106.52

Read our full PureVPN review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

4. Private Internet Access

Affordable and secure VPN with wide device compatibility

  • Affordable pricing plans
  • Unlimited simultaneous devices
  • Extra features like ad blocker and email protection
  • Verified no-log policy
  • Compatible with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu
  • High use of virtual servers
  • Not as fast as top-tier VPNs
  • Lacks proprietary protocol options
PIA

Streaming: PIA offers robust encryption and a large number of UK servers, which helps maintain your anonymity while providing reliable access to BBC Sounds. Its no-logs policy ensures your streaming habits are not recorded.

Servers: PIA’s UK servers offer both P2P support and streaming optimization, making them a solid choice for accessing BBC Sounds. The servers also feature automatic kill switches, ensuring your connection is always secure while streaming.

Privacy: PIA’s app is open-source, inviting third-party scrutiny and verification. It has also passed an independent no-log policy audit conducted by Deloitte, affirming its commitment to privacy.

Price: PIA offers three subscription options: 1-month at $11.95/month, 1-year at $3.33/month (upfront cost $39.95), and 3-year at $2.03/month (upfront fee $79). Payment methods include credit cards, PayPal, cryptocurrencies, and Amazon payments.

Speeds: Speed tests for PIA showed significant drops in download speeds across various servers. While using WireGuard protocol, speeds were faster than OpenVPN but still slower compared to top-tier VPNs like ExpressVPN.

OpenVPN Download Speeds (Mbps)OpenVPN Upload Speeds (Mbps)WireGuard Download Speeds (Mbps)WireGuard Upload Speeds (Mbps)
VPN off (New Zealand)930516
PIA US server238.527.17300.658.65
PIA UK server2453.77315.787.23
PIA Vietnam server4456.554898.24

Read our full Private Internet Access review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

5. Surfshark

Affordable and secure VPN with unlimited device policy of 2024

  • Attractive pricing for long-term subscriptions
  • Supports unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Robust security and privacy
  • 24/7 responsive chat support
  • Extensive server network in 100 countries
  • Has trouble with services like Hulu
  • Lacks a unique proprietary protocol
  • App can be overwhelming
  • Not the fastest among competitors
Surfshark

Streaming: Surfshark allows unlimited simultaneous connections, so you can enjoy BBC Sounds on multiple devices with a single subscription. Its NoBorders mode ensures you can access BBC Sounds even in restrictive regions.

Servers: Surfshark’s CleanWeb technology on its UK servers blocks ads and malware, ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted BBC Sounds streaming experience. The servers also offer camouflage mode to hide your VPN use from your ISP and maintain access to BBC Sounds.

Privacy: Surfshark emphasizes its commitment to privacy with successful DNS leak tests and independent security audits by Cure53, ensuring robust online security and privacy. You can find more about their security audits here.

Price: Surfshark offers a 1-month option costing $12.95/month, a 12-month option at $3.99/month, and a 24-month option at $2.49/month. It accepts major credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, and various cryptocurrencies.

Speeds: Below is a table that gives you an idea of the speed performance when using Surfshark. From our tests, we observed decent speeds, suitable for general use, but not the fastest compared to some rivals.

Download Speeds (Mbps)Upload Speeds (Mbps)
No VPN (New Zealand)940.55520.24
Surfshark US server775.96.15
Surfshark UK server587.793.79

Read our full Surfshark review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

Will a free VPN work with BBC Sounds?

While it’s technically possible to listen to BBC Sounds using a free VPN, there are several challenges and considerations you should be aware of:

  1. Detection and Blocking: BBC Sounds, like many streaming services, actively works to detect and block VPNs from accessing its content. Free VPNs often have a limited number of servers and IP addresses, which are more easily identified and blocked by such platforms.
  2. Limited Server Options: Free VPNs typically offer a limited selection of servers, and there may not always be servers in the UK available. This can make it difficult to obtain a UK IP address required to access BBC Sounds.
  3. Data Limits and Speed Restrictions: Many free VPNs impose data caps and throttle connection speeds, which can significantly impact your listening experience, causing buffering or limiting how much content you can stream.
  4. Privacy Concerns: Free VPNs may not follow strict privacy policies, potentially logging and selling your data to third parties. This can pose a risk to your online privacy and security.
  5. Ad-Supported Models: To generate revenue, some free VPNs may show ads, which can be intrusive and detract from your experience.
  6. Quality and Reliability: The overall quality and reliability of free VPN services can vary significantly. Users may experience frequent disconnections, poor customer support, and difficulty connecting to desired services.

For a better experience, it’s generally recommended to use a reputable paid VPN service that offers dedicated UK servers, strong privacy and security features, and reliable access to streaming services like BBC Sounds. Paid VPNs are more likely to provide the bandwidth and support needed for high-quality streaming without interruptions. They also regularly update their server locations and IP addresses to stay ahead of detection efforts by streaming services.

BBC Sounds not working with VPN? [Explained]

BBC Radio is free for the whole world to listen to. This oddity predates internet radio to a time when the BBC was committed to using radio as a tool to share British culture, and its views, with the world.

The result of this commitment, in modern times, means UK travellers only need an internet connection and a smartphone/tablet/computer to listen to BBC Radio stations via the BBC Sounds app.

Most of the time… 

If you want to listen to a BBC Sounds station that’s broadcasting certain sports commentaries – such as TMS or EPL 3PM kick-offs – you won’t be able to listen from outside the UK.

Why? “Licensing reasons”. As you’re probably aware, the TV rights for broadcasting live English Premier League Football is worth billions of pounds. And while the radio broadcasting rights are not in the same league (clumsy pun intended) they’re still a valuable asset – meaning the Beeb has to geo-restrict its broadcasts to within the UK to avoid breaching its broadcast license from the EPL.

Up until recently, there was a simple way around this. Any cheap VPN that gave you access to a UK IP address would let you access the BBC abroad. Not any more. Nowadays, there are only a handful of VPNs that work with BBC. That’s because the BBC now actively blocks VPNs from working with iPlayer – meaning that you need to use a VPN that, in turn, know how to beat iPlayer’s ban.

In short, it’s a complicated game of Cat and Mouse between the VPNs and BBC iPlayer not. If you have a few minutes, take a look at my article on How to listen to BBC Radio abroad for a more in-depth explanation about how VPN’s are able to beat iPlayer’s blacklists.

BBC Sounds not working abroad: FAQs

Q: Why can’t I access BBC Sounds abroad even with a VPN?

Answer: Even with a VPN, you might face issues accessing BBC Sounds abroad if the VPN’s IP addresses have been blocked by the BBC or if you’re using a server outside the UK. To resolve this, try connecting to a different UK server on your VPN, as this often refreshes your IP address to one that hasn’t been blocked.

Q: How do I choose the best VPN for BBC Sounds when I’m abroad?

Answer: When choosing a VPN for BBC Sounds, look for one with a wide range of UK servers, high-speed connections for streaming, strong encryption for privacy, and a proven track record of bypassing geo-restrictions. Services like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark are known for their reliability in accessing UK content from abroad.

Q: What should I do if BBC Sounds stops working with my VPN while I’m abroad?

Answer: If BBC Sounds stops working with your VPN, first, try clearing your browser’s cache and cookies, as these can reveal your real location. Then, disconnect and reconnect to a different UK server on your VPN. If issues persist, contact your VPN’s customer support for assistance.

Q: Can using a free VPN affect my ability to listen to BBC Sounds abroad?

Answer: Free VPNs often have limited servers, slower speeds, and data caps, which can affect streaming quality and access to BBC Sounds abroad. They are also more likely to be blocked by BBC’s geo-restriction measures. Investing in a reputable paid VPN service is generally more reliable for accessing BBC Sounds outside the UK.

Q: Why does my VPN connection keep dropping while listening to BBC Sounds abroad?

Answer: A dropping VPN connection could be due to network instability, the VPN struggling with high traffic on its UK servers, or your device’s settings. To improve stability, try connecting to a server with a lower load, update your VPN app to the latest version, or check your device’s network settings for any issues that may affect VPN connectivity.

Patch Bowen
Patch Bowen is an accomplished technology journalist with a solid academic foundation, holding a degree from Auckland University. His expertise spans across a range of tech topics, with a notable focus on product reviews, industry trends, and the impact of technology on society. With his work featured on major New Zealand websites like Stuff.co.nz, thebit.nz, and The Press, Patch has established himself as a credible voice in technology media. His articles are known for their detailed analysis and practical insights, particularly in making complex technological concepts understandable for a broad audience. At ReviewsFire, Patch is renowned for his thorough evaluations and clear, informative writing style. He has a knack for identifying and explaining the nuances of the latest gadgets and digital trends, earning him a reputation as a trusted source for tech advice and information.

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