back to article Wireless browsers shut out of the Olympics

Mobile broadband over 3G may be able to offer speeds to compete with ADSL, but it can't offer access to the Olympics - at least not from the BBC, who are blocking mobile users from video streams of the event to comply with IOC rulings. Those wanting to watch the latest developments at the Olympics should be sure not to rely on …


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  1. Nightmare

    I don't get it

    "The BBC tries, with limited success, to restrict most of its content to UK viewers - we pay the licence fee, after all. "

    "The problem comes when mobile customers roam to another country - all IP traffic is routed through their home network, so they appear to be still in the UK despite physically being abroad, and that's got the IOC all upset."

    Surely these two statements are contradictory.

    I am a UK viewer. I pay my license fee. If I go on holiday surely I remain a UK license fee payer and should therefore retain my access to the content.

    Or are they worried about foreigners buying UK sims, and contracts, and browsing via those? If they really are worrying about that someone should send the IOC a slingbox. They'd have kittens.

  2. Andy

    Pain in the backside

    As a payer of the license fee I am happy to see that non UK IP Addresses are blocked, I become very unhappy when away on business for weeks on end, and maybe i feel like a bit of UK Telly to help the time go by, using works VPN I am unable to use streaming sites, and in most sys admins eyes "Quite right to!"

    I have heard through the grapevine that you can P2P TV shows within hours or a few days of broadcast, P2P Clients not the sort of thing you want to explain away to BOFH when it's picked up by the Discovery Tool.

    FTP show's from home maybe be an idea, if you can be bothered with the poor transfer speeds, (8hours for a 30 minute show or 750Mb for the tech minded) and you would have to be a LAN engineer to ensure no impact to folks back at the ranch when your killing the bandwidth.

    In this IT day and age can we not have User ID's linked to License fee's, anti fraud in place to ensure user ID's are not pinging up all over the place at the same time?? or at least something that allow's exceptions to the rules like me to be able to view what i am actually paying for whilst overseas?

    With an abundant amount of PVR's on the market what is the point of having IP TV currently if not to be able to watch where you wouldn't be able to on a real life, actually in front of you TV?

    7 weeks in Asia with no English speaking TV Programs except BBC World News and CNN was not fun, when trying to watch F1 on Chinese CCTV6 (great channel name i think!) as was not playing ball. ESPN only show's Football, not my fave sport if i'm to be honest. Which left me with an enourmous task on Sky+ to decide what i could do with out watching and what i did want to watch upon my return.

    Content providers seem to wheel out the standard "At this time only UK Addresses can access the Online Content for free" every time i drop an line to ask when i will be able to use iplayer, 4oD etc abroad

  3. Ben Naylor

    Wider issue

    This issue relates to all streaming media on the BBC, not just the olympics. I cannot access any of the streaming media on my Vodaphone mobile broadband dongle as it says I am "outside the UK".

  4. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Satans' Little Helpers

    How pathetic is that ...... with everything now being tailored to suit advertising contracts. The great Humanity Sell Off . Oh well, time to be a very naughty boy?

    Here are some prescient words of wisdom ....

  5. Andy S

    UK Viewers

    If the viewers are UK viewers and they have paid the license and they are logging on to their UK provider (whether directly or via global roaming), does it really matter where they are? After all, its still a UK originated number/phone.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    "Where is the user" vs "Where is the user's billing address"

    Change the BBC/ISP rules to if the punter is with a UK service provider (and thus almost certainly with a UK billing address), and then the 3G companies can start raking in lots of excess-bandwidth revenue again, after a few decades they might even recover 10% of the silly money they paid for licences.

  7. Jolyon Ralph

    We already have a userid - our TV licence number.

    Why they don't allow us to use this I have no idea. Obviously with some kind of pin code or whatnot to restrict misuse.

    I remember suggesting this to people at the Beeb when I was working there TEN years ago when there was some initial debate as to how to differentiate between UK citizens and Johnny Foreigner.


  8. Anonymous Coward

    Just the tip of the iceberg.

    Can the BBC guarantee that its radio and TV transmissions cannot be picked up in Calais? Better block those as well. No olympics coverage on radio or TV then.

    Can the Daily Mail guarantee that nobody will take a copy of its newspapers on a boat or plane? No olympics coverage in UK newspapers then.

    Can Royal Mail guarantee that people won't mention the olympics in the PS of their letters to overseas relatives? Right, that''s the whole of RM's international delivery service shut down.

    Can the organisers of 2012 guarantee that spectators will not leave the country after the event, and talk about it to other people? No spectators at 2012 olympics then.

  9. Terry Bernstein
    Paris Hilton

    Online with WiFi

    Just back from holiday. Could my family keep up with Eastenders using the hotel's WiFi on our laptops/Itouch etc.?

    Of course not, we're outside the UK. But I've paid my license fee for a 52 week access. If the BBC is blocking my access when I'm on holiday I want a discount!

    (Paris 'cos she's always available).

  10. Tim J

    Get rid of the licence fee...

    get rid of geo-IP location, get rid of advertising, make all telly free and open source.

    After all, everyone who works in telly are surely not only be willing to do it for free, and pay for all their own overheads too.

    It's the rule of the freetards...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I can't access the BBC website and I'm in the UK!

    I work for a large IT company, three letters, blue in colour and not EDS (or HP).

    My access is blocked as well, I assume that this is due to our the IP addresses being somewhat US in nature even though last time I looked out the window, I could still see the Thames and the South Bank.

    Somewhat annoying as I'm a license payer, based in the UK and had nowt to do this afternoon.

  12. Richard Porter

    Routed through their home network

    “The problem comes when mobile customers roam to another country - all IP traffic is routed through their home network, so they appear to be still in the UK despite physically being abroad, and that's got the IOC all upset.”

    But if your home network is in the UK then in all probability you're a UK citizen and pay the TV Licence fee. Perhaps the BBC is more concerned about its BBC World advertising revenue?

  13. Avi

    Not having a TV

    And so not paying a TV license, I'm still amused that everyone in the UK has access to iPlayer...

  14. Graham Dawson


    "In this IT day and age can we not have User ID's linked to License fee's, anti fraud in place to ensure user ID's are not pinging up all over the place at the same time??"

    Did you just find a new role for the Government ID Card project? I think you did!

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Anonymous Coward

    Read the whole thing expecting someone to offer a hack for getting BBC content abroad.


  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the UK, NO BBC :(

    I'm the same as the other AC, I'm in the UK and Olymics footage is blocked,. Thats all though, I can see other footage on the iplayer, just not the olymics especially as I wanted to watch the opening live and couln't find anyone other than the BBC showing it in time. And even though our traffic appears to be from the US, Pandora managed to figure out I was in the UK and blocked me too (until they go byebye then everyones blocked).

    Mind you I can see so can watch some US only footage, so it's not all bad..

    Confused of Tonbridge Wells

  17. William Old
    Paris Hilton

    Makes no difference...

    ... as all of the CBS content isn't available to Linux users anyway... what a pile of steaming crap...

    What are these Olympics anyway? Are they important? I think we should be told...

    Paris, because she was awarded gold in the horizontal jogging event...

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Location Based Services?

    The solution is simple - the BBC need to work with the mobile operators to get the location of the mobile subscriber based on which base station/s they are using.

    This technology is already being used to power mobile applications such as self location on Orange World Maps, and by all the companies that offer people the ability to track other mobiles with their permission, and 'Find My Nearest', etc.

    Then, it's simply a case of when the BBC sees an IP address belonging to a mobile operator, they use this system instead to locate the viewer with initial consent being given by the mobile viewer to the BBC to access this base station triangulation data.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Roaming Charges...

    This is a bit off topic slightly, but it is remotely possible that if the BBC has blocked access to ALL content, not just that of the Olympics, then maybe they have succumbed to an agreement with the networks, preventing the crazy bills people have been receiving via the iPlayer and Roaming USB dongles.

    Just a thought...

    Paris, because she'd find a back door that would work.

  20. James
    Paris Hilton

    License fee?

    This is very stupid in two ways: you can be in the UK without owning a TV, and thus access the BBC's services without paying, or (as others here have pointed out already) you can be a license-fee payer overseas, prohibited from accessing the content you're paying for.

    I really hoped that with the digital switchover, license-fee enforcement would become purely technological (as it is already for Sky subscriptions, cable, mobile phone service etc): your license fee would get you a smart card to insert into your set top box in order to watch BBC services. No license fee, no card, no BBC signal: as simple as that. No more threatening letters to non-TV owners from Capita (the company which collects the fee), no watching without a license - everyone wins, except the freeloaders! Throw in some sort of PIN or user account, and it'll even work fine for online content, wherever you are.

    (OK, there's a loophole with multiple sets and multiple user accounts, but that should be much easier to deal with.)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Just the tip of the iceberg.

    Anonymous Coward wrote: "Can the organisers of 2012 guarantee that spectators will not leave the country after the event, and talk about it to other people? No spectators at 2012 olympics then."

    I bloody hope that the organisers CAN guarantee that all spectators will be evicted after the 2012 games. I'd like the country to return to what passes for normal these days.

    I would even suggest that UK citizens who go to watch the games should be evicted as well. Might increase the national IQ a bit [cf Robert Muldoon's comments in the ongoing war between Kiwis and Ozzies.]

  22. Andy Taylor

    It's TV Licence

    not TV license, that's something that the Merkins would have if they funded their TV through a compulsory fee.

    We need a pedant icon :)

  23. Anonymous Coward

    well ..

    I was on holiday in the Netherlands last week, and BBC1 and BBC2 were available and showing the Olympics. I suspect the cable company pays the BBC.

    Mines the IOC members coat with the enormous bung in the pocket, well how else could it have been held in China?

  24. Kenny Swan

    Another reason why the BBC sucks

    I spend half my time in the UK and the other half in Denmark. I still pay my license fee. Why don't I get a 50% refund for not being able to access iPlayer and such like when I'm not here? Why do the US get BBC America and Danish TV shows Top Gear and such like? Why do we pay for all this stuff and other countries don't? Get adverts on BBC and shove the license fee.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In Germany, watching BBC Olympics coverage...

    ..earlier this evening. BBC is easy to receive in north west Europe by satellite.

    This is all bollocks though; the French and German broadcasters don't care who watches their coverage of the Olympics, broadcasting widebeam satellite signals over most of Europe. Is the BBC under some special restriction by the IOC? It doesnt seem likely.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Please help me here, what is the problem exactly?

    BBC has paid to IOC to be able to broadcast the olympics. But so have most national broadcast services.. (And for those countries which do not have it, there is a special youtube channel) So what does the IOC care if i watch it from my national bc or from some other? What is their stake?

    Paris because i feel as smart as her

  27. daniel Silver badge

    I do not understand...

    If you are a foreign national roming in a country not your own, you may not speak the lingo or purchase all local "official sponsor" products...

    So the IOC tell you that you must watch the sport in a language that you do not understand, that focuses on their own athletes (and ignore yours - fair game really as everyone does this) and shows ads to products that you have never heard of - and cannot understand anyway...

    I think that most of the International Olympic Corrupted need a good rogering followed by a session with a cluestick...

  28. RW

    Follow the money

    Interesting that no one wonders why the IOC is so anxious about this. Usually comments on El Reg cut to the heart of the matter, but in this case they're only superficial.

    Here's the reason: broadcast rights to the Olympics go into the IOC's pockets, and without an ironclad guarantee of exclusivity, broadcasters won't pay the atrocious fees. Hence the anxiety, as the better-than-royalty lifestyle of the members of the IOC is at risk if there's leakage.

    I'm waiting for the world to wake up to this scam and demand that all such moneys be used to defray the costs of Olympic venues instead of being siphoned off to (in effect) enrich the members of the IOC.


    You might say the IOC is picking the pockets of the entire world's coat.

  29. Triked
    Gates Horns


    You can watch iPlayer without paying a license fee here, but if their "judge, jury and executioner" like IP locator remotely suspects they could be missing out on selling you one of their international paid stations, you don't get access.

    @Jolyon - Then how would us poor freetards get access? According to the BBC's own website, you don't need a license to receive non-live programming

    @Kenny Swan - You pay your license to receive live TV while in the UK. Nothing more.

    @RW - Couldn't agree more, the IOC are just looking after their own financial interests.

    Evil gates, because he knows all about financial interests.

  30. Gilbert Wham

    How about this?

    would something like an Incognito live CD not do the job? IIRC, it allows you to set an IP address from any country where there's an exit node. 'Course you'd have to tweak it, as the browser won't have flash installed already, but a world-wide iPlayer distro can't be too hard, surely?

  31. Kevin

    It's not about the license fee

    I think the license fee you guys pay is clouding the issue. In Australia we pay for the ABC as well. But through taxes instead of a license fee. No government has yet opted for a direct TV Tax like yours here.

    The issue is about copyright and licensing. The IOC has licensed the BBC to broadcast the Olympics in the UK. They've licensed the 7 Network to broadcast it here in Australia (and 7 have sold complimentary rights to SBS for certain content) and Telstra & BigPond have the sole Mobile broadcast rights. Yahoo7 shows brief snippets online.

    All these companies have very strict contractual relationships with the IOC determining what they can show and where. The fact that you pay BBC Tax and are a UK subscriber does not give the BBC any rights to broadcast to you in Belgium. Doesn't matter what you've paid, it's not in their rights package.

    Sure, some signal may leak out but as long as the BBC are taking reasonable steps to prevent that then I'm sure the IOC will be ok with it.

    What amazes me is that there's no way for them to tell whether a person on their network is local or coming from overseas. Surely you can configure your DHCP so that roaming links are in a different address space? Or some other mechanism. Instead they hit it with a big hammer.

  32. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    Isn't the license about OWNING a telly?

    My Yank brain was of the understanding that the TV license is for the privilege of mere ownership of a device which is capable of receiving and displaying a TV broadcast. Given this stance, then owning a TV 365 days out of the year would trump not being physically present in the country for 182.5 of those days.

    Could someone provide a little more enlightenment?

    Paris, also in need of enlightenment.

  33. Anonymous Coward


    I am not watching the Olympics this time, between the corrupt IOC officials, blatant drug taking by copetitors and the Chinese government I dont believe it is a fair competition.

  34. Tim Bates
    Thumb Down

    Licensing changes required!

    Why doesn't the UK abolish the user-pays TV license system? It's losing it's relevance as media changes.

    Plus it's a lot easier on the users!

  35. Nigel Barrett
    Thumb Down


    The company which I work for has an internet presence which surfaces either in Germany or the US, depending on which server the autoproxy randomly assigns. So I can't see video at the BBC either. Interestingly I can see some video at sky news.

    I notice that most US web sites with video are now asking for a zip code and a tick-box confirmation that the user is in the US.

  36. chris morton
    Paris Hilton

    Then now come the BBC is trialling streaming p2p?

    if this is the case then how come the BBC is involved with the newly evolving torrent streaming protocol?

    SwarmPlayer ( is still in beta, but it's basically bittorrent with streaming capabilites and the BBC is involved with it's developement.

    There's even one of those sneaky bittorrent sites (which I shan't name) already using the new protocol to p2p-stream all the olympics coverage since it started so the BBC blocking 3g users seems like too little too late.

    Technology will always find a way. :o)

    Paris because you can stream her from anywhere!

  37. Olly Simmons
    Thumb Up

    Re: Pain in the backside

    If you have VPN access then log in on remote desktop and watch it from there. OK the frame rate might not be quite as good but it will work.

  38. David Beck

    Who travels and doesn't have a Slingbox or HAVA?

    £50 or so and your TV goes with you.

    My Slingbox has a Freeview tuner and a connection the Sky box. Other than a fuzzy picture it works a treat. Even the picture is pretty good on the Palm but I don't use 3G streaming.

    Geo restrictions are a way for content suppliers (IOC in this case) to drive up the revenue (resale of old rope). I say f**k'm, the IOC in particular are know to be at the trough more than an EU commissioner and that's saying something.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    The BBC: A disgrace!!!

    I pay my license fee, but frequently work in Germany. Ok, I am not really that interested in the olympics, because I feel very strongly against subsidising in bunch of hypocritcal international criminals (The IOC).

    If you look at the members, a number either have committed some economical crime (massive fraud, bribery etc) or are hypocrites as for instance Prince Faissal, who swore an oaths to support the equality of gender, race, etc.

    And yet, for Saudi Arabia no women are permitted for the Olympics.

    But never mind that, it is a matter of principal, that I pay my license fee and therefor am entitled to view what ever and wherever I am.

    So just out of pure spite, I have setup a VPN server in the UK on my internet access (I have the luxury of two independent links) and use my proxy server in the UK to look at some of the content they make available for UK only.

    And now and again some of my German colleagues watch together with me!


    Don't you numpties get? you are just wasting the license-payers money, it is always possible to circumvent it!

  40. Tim Williams

    An opportunity

    Why dosn't the BBC print an access code on the TV licence which you can use to access services such as the iPlayer ? I personally object to the the fact that people who don't have TV's but do live in the UK are (potentially) getting all of the BBC content without having to pay for it. Using an access code on the licence would also give the BBC the opportunity to sell TV licences to people outside the UK who want to watch the BBC.

  41. Chris Donald

    Ridiculous needless nonsense

    Is it truly that important to the IOC to have this kind of restriction in place? Wouldn't they rather have more viewers of the Olympics rather than less? The idiot who decided to push this kind of block needs putting out to pasture asap.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: masses of uninformed dribble above.

    "I spend half my time in the UK and the other half in Denmark. I still pay my license fee. Why don't I get a 50% refund for not being able to access iPlayer and such like when I'm not here?"

    You can. You can get a refund on any quarters on a television licence where there was no one present in the property.

    Maybe some basic research before ranting?

    Rights are sold by territory. It doesn't matter where you're from, it matters where you are. Hence if the BBC wants to show content to UK nationals in another country, then they have to buy the rights to air the programme in that country. And that will cost billions of pounds a year. Personally I don't fancy a five fold increase in my licence fee just so you can watch Eastenders on holiday.

    An access code would do nothing to change that.

  43. Richard Cross

    Sure it's annoying

    I live in Belgium. As part of the 37 channels I get through my local cable provider, we get BBC1 and BBC2 along with major channels from the Netherlands, Italy, France, Germany etc.

    I don't pay any UK licence fee any more. Maybe a part of my Belgian TV fees goes back to the Beeb? It's a pain that I can't wave my biometrically enhanced British passport in front of my pc to get some Olympic streaming going on.

  44. Demented Smurf

    Know what your paying for...

    Although the TV license fee eventually funds the BBC, thats not what were paying for!

    The TV licensing money we pay allows us to leagally install & use TV receiving equipment and is sweet FA to do with the content you receive.

    When the beeb sign a contract to deliver the olympics transmissions in the UK thats all there allowed to do.

    I do however find it bizzare & object to the method they have chosen to restrict access, it's just crazy maaaaadness and a token guesture to keep the IOC quiet!

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