Multiple ADSL connections
What can you do when you have applied all the broadband speed enhancement techniques described on this site, but you have multiple users and/or devices and your limited ADSL speeds are becoming a major bottleneck? The simple answer is to use more than one broadband connection. With the increasing availability of Local Loop Unbundled (LLU) services, using more than a single ADSL connection is now surprisingly affordable with the right choice of supplier(s). Not only can multiple connections speed up Internet access for users, it can provide much-valued resilience – so that you are not disconnected from the Internet if a single line goes down.
Why use more than one broadband connection?
With all the discussion in the media about superfast broadband services, you could be forgiven for thinking that almost every household and business in the country benefits from superfast broadband services. Nothing could be further from the truth! Many households and small business are reliant on basic ADSL services. As discussed in our blog article, according to uSwitch, a third of homes struggle to achieve broadband speeds above 5Mbps, and half of homes get broadband speeds of less than 6.7Mbps. This means that there are many homes and businesses in the UK that are currently stuck with low broadband speeds.
In this website, we have presented a range of techniques that can be applied to squeeze the very best speeds from a single ADSL broadband connection. These include:
- installation of a filtered faceplate
- tweaking of the target signal-to-noise ratio margin
- moving to ADSL2+ from basic ADSL
- changing to a good ISP, which does not apply traffic shaping
- using a more robust modem (such as the Billion 7800N).
Many broadband users find that the combination of these approaches can substantially improve the reliability and speeds of their broadband connection.
However, once you have extracted the very best performance from your ADSL connection, what options are there to improve speeds further? Once you’ve reached the ‘end of the line’ with improvements (pardon the pun), the answer is to use more than one connection.
Multiple ADSL connections may be cheaper than you think
Using more than one ADSL line can be surprisingly affordable, particularly for those willing to review the supplier of their primary line. The cost of two ADSL connections may be little different from maintaining a single line with some providers.
Furthermore, by using more than one ADSL line, you have the option of using lower-priced ADSL connections with smaller usage allowances (if you balance your traffic across multiple connections). Furthermore, multiple broadband connections may help you to avoid incurring punitive over-usage charges that some providers with strict usage allowances apply, which can often be higher than the cost of additional ADSL connection.
Dual-WAN (multi-WAN) routers or true ADSL bonding
There are a number of ways in which you can use multiple ADSL lines, by employing:
- a dual/multi-WAN router with ‘fail over’ and ‘fail back’ capabilities
- a dual/multi-WAN router with load balancing capabilities
- a bonded ADSL service from an ISP (e.g. Be)
- the innovative Sharedband bonding service.
Each of these solutions provides improved resilience compared with a single ADSL connection, particularly where separate ISPs are used for each individual line. However, these techniques differ in some important aspects, which we will now consider.
Dual/multi-WAN routers with fail-over/fail-back provide resilience benefits only
There are a number of dual-WAN routers available that offer basic fail-over/fail-back capabilities, such as our favourite Billion 7800N. Broadband users that are concerned about the reliability of their Internet connections can connect two separate lines to such a router. The router automatically switches to the working ADSL connection if the other connection fails (for example, due to a line fault or a failure in part of the ISP’s network).
It is important to realise that apart from resilience, dual-WAN routers equipped with fail-over/fail-back do not give speed or capacity benefits, since one of the broadband connections always remains unused. While buying a dual-WAN router with basic fail-over/fail-back capabilities may seem to be the cheapest solution, this may not necessarily be the case since there may be none of the potential benefits associated with sharing traffic among several connections.
Load-balancing routers help to support multiple simultaneous users and devices
More advanced dual/multi-WAN routers incorporate so-called ‘load balancing’, which allows both connections to be utilised through appropriate processing by the router. A load-balancing router attempts to match the demand of the broadband users and devices attached to it with the available capacity, splitting traffic across two or more broadband connections.
Not all load-balancing routers are the same! Routers differ substantially in the extent to which they can manage traffic efficiently and effectively, and in a balanced way. More expensive routers tend to give superior results, and generally provide more user control on how multiple connections are used. Results from high-quality load-balancing routers can be excellent in terms of supporting a greater number of simultaneous users compared with a single ADSL line, while also providing the resilience benefits that two or more ADSL connections can provide.
Take the example of two users each simultaneously trying to view a separate 2Mbps video feed. This could not be supported on a single 3Mbps ADSL connection. However, with a load-balancing dual-WAN router and two 3Mbps ADSL connections, one of the 2Mbps video feeds would be routed along one of the ADSL connections, while the other 2Mbps video feed would be carried by the other ADSL connection.
It is important to note the limitation of load-balancing routers, however. While some people incorrectly refer to dual-WAN routers as being able to ‘bond’ two (or more) broadband connections together, this is technically not the case. For example, a dual-WAN load-balancing router does not transform two 3Mbps connections into a combined connection of 6Mbps. It simply allows traffic to be carried along one of the two connections, with the maximum speed for the particular user/application being limited to the maximum speed of the single broadband connection. So, a 4Mbps video feed could not be viewed with two 3Mbps broadband connections.
The lack of true bonding may not be an issue for broadband users that benefit from relatively high speeds on each connection (for example, 8Mbps or above). This is because high single-line speeds would allow a full range of services to be carried on each connection. We do feel, however, that the use of load-balancing routers can be restrictive when the speeds of the individual lines are relatively low. This is where true line bonding can be highly beneficial.
ADSL bonding services are rare and Be is the only LLU operator to offer them
While the concept of ISPs offering multiple ADSL connections that are bonded together sounds like an obvious opportunity for ISPs to support their small business and consumer customers in rural areas and in other areas where broadband speeds are low, we have been surprised by how few ISPs have seized the opportunity to provide such services, particularly among Local Loop Unbundled (LLU) operators. Bonding would allow ISPs to extract significantly greater revenue.
Among LLU operators, only Be offers a bonded ADSL solution, offering to “double” broadband speeds by bonding the two lines together. Sadly, Be services are not available on a nationwide basis. For more information about line bonding and other solutions from Be Broadband, click on the following banner.
Sharedband ADSL bonding can be used with separate ISPs
Finally, we come to an innovative ADSL bonding solution developed by Sharedband in the UK. Sharedband claims that its bonding service can achieve download and upload throughputs that are close to the sum of the throughputs of the individual lines bonded.
Given that the Sharedband service can work independently of any ISP, it is not dependent on the availability of any particular broadband service provider. Therefore, it is available to all UK broadband users. Furthermore, since the Shareband service can use ADSL connections from different network providers, extra resilience can be achieved by deliberately selecting independent providers for each line.
Monthly subscriptions for the Sharedband service start from £24 (including VAT) for the bonding of two lines, to which must be added the cost of two lines and associated broadband subscriptions (from your chosen ISPs). Through appropriate choice of telephone/broadband providers, the total monthly costs can be kept to about £75 (including all voice telephone calls).
Eclipse Internet sells a straightforward bonded ADSL service for business users
Eclipse Internet is an award-winning business-focused ISP, which offers a complete ADSL bonded solution (which is actually based on the Sharedband bonding technology). Eclipse Internet provides the complete package (including broadband ADSL services on multiple lines) so that your business has the peace of mind of a single contact covering all aspects of the bonded broadband service.
For more information about the services offered by Eclipse Internet, click on the banner below:
Multiple lines bring significant benefits
As we have shown, using multiple ADSL connections can bring significant benefits, particularly for small businesses and consumers struggling with poor broadband speeds and/or poor broadband service reliability. Today, the costs associated with multiple lines are much more affordable than they were several years ago. Having more than one line really is a viable proposition for many. You may find that costs may not actually increase compared with your present service, particularly if you currently use BT services.
Depending on the speeds achieved by your broadband connection(s), a load-balanced router may provide a cost-effective way of providing benefits from having more than one line. For broadband users with the slowest speeds, true ADSL bonding offers the potential of transforming your Internet experience.