How to watch RTE outside Ireland

Mikaela Bray
Mikaela Bray | Contributing Writer
Last updated: January 6, 2021
RTE logo
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RTE (Radio Telefís Éireann) is Ireland’s national broadcaster, and one of the best sources of fresh Irish comedies, crime dramas, historical epics, and live sports events. Based in Dublin, the company has worldwide reach thanks to the RTÉ player, which runs on desktops, laptops, and smartphones alike, potentially opening up a huge library of Irish content to enjoy.

But there’s a catch. As with many streaming services, RTE Player is often restricted outside its native jurisdiction, causing frustration for Irish viewers who travel, and foreign viewers who want to explore the channel’s content.

Thankfully, a few solutions could make it easier to enjoy what RTE has to offer. These solutions could include:

  • Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) – which anonymize your IP address and encrypt your data
  • SmartDNS – which assigns your web traffic to another DNS server
  • Proxies – Which change your IP address at app-level, without encryption
  • TOR – which provides cast iron anonymity, at a speed cost

If you regularly watch RTE’s hit comedies, need to keep up with local news via an RTÉ live stream outside Ireland, or just want another option when accessing American dramas that are franchised abroad, this blog is the resource for you. Let’s find out how to unblock RTE, and why some popular options aren’t up to the task.

Unblock RTE with a VPN

Virtual Private Networks are easily the best tool to unblock RTE. Their core ability is to anonymize your digital identity, assigning a new IP address which could be anywhere in the world.

This means that if you travel outside Ireland, you can set your identity as in Dublin or Limerick, and – as if by magic – log onto the RTÉ Player with no issues at all. And if you want to catch the latest GAA action, finding an RTE 2 live stream outside Ireland will be simple.

At the same time, good VPNs encrypt everything that enters and leaves your device, ensuring that when you watch RTE in UK cities, the company won’t be able to inspect your traffic to gain clues about your location.

Best VPN for unblocking RTE

What makes a good VPN to unblock RTE? Speed matters, of course (after all, we’re streaming video here). Good VPNs will also offer thousands of servers, ensuring localization and excellent speeds. Encryption should be 256-bit AES at least, while DNS and IP leaks need to be absent.

And reliability is key, as well. No-one wants their connection to fail in the middle of an episode of their favorite drama.

With that in mind, here are three VPNs that score well across the board:

1. NordVPN

NordVPN service logo

Probably the most reliable VPN in the world, NordVPN offers a vast range of servers, ensuring that wherever you travel, you’ll be able to use the RTÉ Player without any hitches. Scoring highly on encryption, privacy, customer support, and ease of use, it’s easily the best option for unblocking RTE.

2. CyberGhost

CyberGhost service logo

Affordable and fast, the Romanian/Israeli VPN CyberGhost is pretty effective if you need to watch RTE in UK cities, or anywhere else for that matter. Military-grade encryption, zero logs, over 7400 global servers, and a solid unblocking record make it a good alternative to our top two.

3. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN service logo

Based in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN is an exceptionally fast VPN, with excellent encryption, watertight DNS and IP leak protection, and a strong record when it comes to beating streaming blocks. It definitely won’t let RTE fans, giving them global reach.

Unblock RTE with a SmartDNS

SmartDNS is another way to work around geo-blocking, so in theory using SmartDNS to watch RTE could be an effective option. These tools work by forcing your web browser to use a different DNS server when resolving queries. This can often have the effect of anonymizing your digital identity, and there’s often a big speed bonus compared with VPNs.

However, despite this boost, SmartDNS is far less effective than using a VPN. When you employ SmartDNS alone, your IP address remains as it was, which is a dead giveaway for geo-blockers. Because of this, it’s very rarely a good option when accessing an RTÉ live stream outside Ireland.

Unblock RTE using a proxy service

Before VPNs came along, proxies were all the rage, but they are now seen as an outdated and ineffective way to access content abroad. Proxies also assign users with fresh identities which may be far away from their actual location, but they are app-based, making them tricky to set up with browsers or the RTE Player.

They also suffer when trying to breach geo-blocks because they don’t offer any form of encryption.  This means that it’s fairly easy for companies like RTE to tell when people are scrambling their IP address. As a consequence, when you watch video through proxy services, it probably won’t unblock RTE.

Unblock RTE with Tor

TOR (The Onion Router) is a private, but relatively slow way to anonymize your online identity. It works by continually re-routing your data from point to point, “wrapping” it in enough layers to make it impenetrable to outsiders.

TOR can be accessed via the TOR Browser, which may be a good option for Irish users who are obsessed with privacy. However, it doesn’t let you change your geographical location, and the speeds available make it sub-optimal when you want to watch an RTE 2 live stream outside Ireland.

Why is RTE  blocked Abroad?

Blocking could occur for a number of reasons, but the root cause is probably copyright protection. Almost all commercially made TV shows are licensed for broadcast in each jurisdiction – so they need to be paid for individually if companies want to show them in the UK, France, or Bulgaria.

RTE, like other streaming services, will most likely offer popular Irish shows, a selection of UK soap operas and comedies, as well as big ticket US productions, but leave out more niche content that is expensive to license. Fans of those shows (and a lot of Ireland-only sports and news) won’t be able to access them via the RTE Player, making it essential to find a reliable way to unblock RTE.

Alternatives to RTE

If you aren’t a fan of RTE’s programming, it’s not the only Irish channel around, and there may be other ways that using the RTE Player to access RTE shows. In terms of Irish TV channels, you might want to watch TV3 or TG4, or pay for channels like Sky Ireland (a good option for sports and move fans).

  • Sky Ireland allows viewers to use its Sky Go boxes and app, enabling you to watch football matches or popular dramas on your smartphone.
  • TG4 is free-to-air, and offers its content via the well-designed TG4 Player, including a strong collection of regional programming that can’t be found anywhere else.
  • Then there’s the Virgin Media Player. Virgin is a big TV provider in Ireland, mixing up its own channels with UK channels, options from CBS, Sky, and Fox.

Watch RTE anonymously

Using a VPN is an excellent way to watch RTE anonymously, putting Ireland’s largest channel within reach at all times. With a VPN installed, you can ensure that no-one has any clue about when you log on, what you watch, how much data you consume, and how you interact with RTE’s customer service team or social media. In a world where companies are cracking down on copyright and IP issues, that level of anonymity can be priceless.​

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