Follow-up Sharedband review with Linksys routers
This is our follow-up review of the Sharedband ADSL bonding service, this time using the Sharedband Linksys WRT54GL routers. While setup was a little bit more involved than setting up Sharedband’s ‘all-in-one’ Netgear DG834v4 routers, the Linksys routers provide enhanced flexibility for broadband users wanting to get the very best performance from their broadband connections. After testing the Sharedband service for over a month, we have found its performance to be outstanding. You really do get the upload and download speed advantages of bonding multiple lines together without any negative performance consequences.
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Setting up the Sharedband Linksys routers
Our initial Sharedband review focused on Sharedband’s most popular router – the Netgear DG834v4. Since an ADSL2+modem is integrated within this device, you only need one of these for each line that you bond together. The Netgear DG834v4 is the cheapest of the three Sharedband routers currently available and is the easiest to set up, as no other devices are needed.
We missed being able to use our favourite, and highly robust, Billion 7800 modem. As discussed in our dedicated Billion 7800 page, this modem/router has an excellent reputation for maintaining the connection on challenging lines. It also provides the facility to adjust (and permanently store) the target SNR margin, which can significantly increase speeds (as described in our SNR tweaking page).
Sales Director Richard Roberts kindly agreed to swap out our two Netgear DG834v4 routers for two Linksys WRT54GL routers. As with the first routers, the small package arrived by courier very quickly, and came with simple instructions. The routers had been pre-configured to match the settings (such as IP addresses) of our first routers – even though we did change these to fit with our new architecture.
Each Sharedband Linksys WRT54GL router ships with customised firmware that has been developed by Sharedband. It is important to note that, while standard WRT54GL routers have wireless (802.11g) capability, the wireless functionality has been deliberately switched off to dedicate the modem’s resources to the processing requirements of the Sharedband ADSL bonding service. As a consequence, broadband users requiring WiFi capability will need to use a separate wireless access point or wireless router.
We connected the Sharedband routers to Billion 7800 modems and a DrayTek 2920 wireless firewall router, as shown in the figure, below, to give us maximum flexibility and peak performance for all users.
Network configuration used with the Linksys Sharedband routers
Dedicated modems achieved a 12% increase in download connection speed
The Billion 7800 modems were configured to use a different IP address range to the Sharedband routers, and each modem was connected to the LAN input of the corresponding Sharedband router. The Billion modems did not need to be configured in ‘bridge mode’ since PPPoE was not supported by the Sharedband Linksys routers.
The use of dedicated modems incorporating SNR target margin tweaking allowed us to achieve significant improvements in download speeds on both our DSL lines. Previously, with the Netgear DG834v4 modems, we were able to achieve downlink connection speeds of 5.6Mbps and 6.0Mbps. With the Billion 7800N modems now in place (using SNR target margin tweaking), we were able to reliably achieve over 6.5Mbps download connection speeds – representing a 12% increase overall, as demonstrated below.
A Draytek firewall router completed our powerful network configuration
We attached the primary Sharedband router to the first WAN input of our DrayTek 2920 wireless firewall router. It was easy to enter details in the DrayTek WAN menu, as shown below. Since both Sharedband modems were configured to have a VRRP Gateway IP address of 192.168.2.250, this was the Gateway IP address typed in to the Draytek set-up menu.
The MTU of the Billion 7800N and Sharedband router WAN inputs was set at 1432, which was recommended by our ISPs as the optimum settings. Sharedband recommends that the MTU setting in Draytek routers is set to be 32 bytes less than the optimum ISP MTUs – to reflect the fact that a small proportion of data packets are used by the Sharedband service itself. So, in our case, we set the WAN input MTU on the DrayTek router to be 1400.
We also attached our primary Billion 7800 modem to the second WAN input of the DrayTek 2920 router. This was configured to provide fail-over, so that, in the unlikely event that the Sharedband service failed, Internet connection would still be maintained through a single conventional ADSL connection.
The incorporation of the DrayTek router provided us with highly-valuable additional functionality:
- wireless 802.11n capability
- bandwidth management (for example, to prioritise Skype traffic, and lower the priority of background applications such as email)
- user control (for example, to switch off Internet access for certain users at specified times)
- application control (to prevent certain Internet applications from being used, such as Facebook)
- dual-WAN capability, to provide fail-over in case the Sharedband service failed.
Performance of the Sharedband service was excellent
We tested our system rigorously over the several days, and we found that it performed flawlessly. Compared with Netgear Sharedband routers, we were able to consistently achieve download speeds of well over 11Mbps while maintaining a stable connections (without drops) over many days.
As demonstrated by the measurements from JackDinn’s Auto Speed Tester software over several hours (shown below), performance was very consistent. As well as high download and upload speeds, jitter was consistently low (at 3ms or less).
We were particularly pleased with the low ping of about 30ms, as demonstrated by our Pingtest.com testing (shown below). Given our relatively long distance from our exchange and the fact that interleaving is used on both DSL lines, this is a fantastic result and demonstrates that the Sharedband service adds an insignificant amount of latency.
Skype worked flawlessly, even when many other Internet applications were being used at the same, helped in part by our ability to prioritise Skype traffic using the DrayTek router.
For all practical purposes, we now had a 11Mbps+ DSL connection thanks to the Sharedband service. Given our rural location, we could never have imagined achieving this level of performance without opting for very expensive leased lines. While this may not be superfast broadband in the strictest sense, the combination of 11Mbps with the traffic management capabilities of the DrayTek router means that there’s little ‘real world’ difference in terms of the quality of service perceived by Internet users. Streaming of HD video content, uploading of large files and multiple Skype calls could all be easily supported simultaneously. Plus, the Sharedband service provides greater resilience than a single-line superfast broadband VDSL or cable solution.
For a total monthly cost of £75 (including VAT, line rental and fixed calls) we had a robust and highly resilient Internet connection with 11Mbps download speed, 1.4Mbps upload speed and substantial monthly usage allowance.
This connection was highly reliable, with a high degree of resilience. If we had ‘lost’ a single DSL connection, Internet access would have been unaffected. By using our dual-WAN DrayTek router, we also had resilience against failure of the Sharedband service itself.
Overall impressions of Sharedband DSL bonding
We have been delighted with the Sharedband service, and regret not knowing of its existence until recently. Hopefully, the service will become better known as Sharedband attempts to build business partnerships in the industry, with ISPs, telecommunication companies, Value-Added Resellers and VoIP providers. We are intrigued why many more ISPs have not seized the opportunity to offer the Sharedband bonding service alongside their existing DSL services. This seems a ‘no-brainer’ to us. Not only would ISPs be better able to support customers with relatively poor DSL connections, but they could increase the number of broadband lines/connections sold. While all-on-one solutions no doubt appeal to many customers, bear in mind that maximum resilience is achieved by not using the same ISP/provider for every DSL connection.
If you would like to order the Sharedband service, please do so via thisSharedband information and ordering page. This will generate a small commission to help cover the costs of running this site.