Load Balancing WAN Connections

I’ve previously posted about how slow my ADSL connection is (5Mbps max!) and that I bought a 4G router just over a year ago (http://blog.v-s-f.co.uk/2014/10/fed-up-of-waiting-for-superfast-broadband/). Before I bought the 4G router, I decided to look at how to load balance the connections. There were two reasons for doing so. One was that I planned to buy another ADSL connection to get a stunning combined* max of 10Mbps!!! And the other reason is that the 4G connection has a few quirks that mean I prefer to send and receive certain traffic down the ADSL connection.

I did a lot of research and bought a Netgear FVS336G v2 off Ebay. At the time I bought it, I only had the ADSL connection, but the device only lasted a month. The device wouldn’t work on the newest firmware, would work for a few days and then grind to a halt and also my tablet couldn’t access the internet! Needless to say, it went back on Ebay…

After more research I then found pfSense. At the time I had a spare media centre pc lying around which had become redundant, but ran at 80 watts idle. I repurposed it for the task of determining if pfSense would be suitable.

pfSense is brilliant and free! As a router it does everything I could possibly want (Port forwarding, OpenVPN, Firewall and Load Balancing to name but a few). The administration portal never crashes or decides not to load a page – it simply works.

I started off again with just the ADSL connection and then bought the 4G router. Setting up the load balancing took a bit of time along with determining what firewalls to put in place.

I’ve recently upgraded the hardware to use a low power cpu on board motherboard and the entire system now runs at a max of 20 watts.

Even when the 4G conection was running at 50Mbps for over 10 minutes, the cpu never went above 5%.


(Example of the firewall rules for sending traffic down ADSL for banking and email)


* Load balancing WAN connections does not mean you will achieve A+B – you would need to bond the connections to get close to achieving A+B speeds. For example in the screen shot above where 50Mbps is being transfered, it’s all across the 4G connection as the connections are not bonded. Load balancing however in my situation is great as a family member can watch iPlayer and I can still browse the internet without affecting the video stream as the data will normally be distributed across the connections available according to load.

Fed up of waiting for Superfast Broadband?

I am…

It seems to me the original goal of the rural broadband initiative has been lost along the way. My local broadband initiative group (Superfast for Herts/Connected Counties) upgrades cabinets in local towns which already have fast broadband available as it gives them the numbers required to hit targets, rather than providing faster broadband for rural communities.

Anyway, I lost my patience with the rural broadband initiative and when I found out from a villager that 4G was available locally and fast(!) I decided to try it out*.

It’s worth noting that it’s not particularly cheap to use 4G… If you decide to get a rolling contract, It’ll cost (16th October 2014) £20 for 15GB or £30 for 25GB. That might seem a lot of data when you don’t have fast broadband and only download an average of 10GB a month… But once you get faster broadband and start watching Video On Demand, you’ll soon eat all the data and possibly before you get to the end of the month!
Then there’s also the hardware you need to use your 4G connection. The providers will give you a dongle (not always free), but if you want to connect to your 4G connection via Ethernet, you’ll need a router.

So I bought (on recommendation from the villager) the Huawei B593s-22 LTE/4G Router (£138.36) along with a 6GB sim card (£15.66). When both items had arrived, I put the sim into the router and switched the router on. The sim card was instantly recognised, but needed to be registered (although you don’t have to register – click step 2!). After registration, I decided to find out how fast the connection was**…

For comparison, this is my home adsl broadband…


And this was the first 4G result!


What more can I say… I’m hooked!




* I’d recommend using the coverage checker before you decide to buy expensive hardware and enter a contract. Even better, if you already have a 4G tablet, buy a cheap 4G data sim and test whether you can get 4G in your house as that’s likely where you’ll use the new connection.


** Please note that if you are using 4G with limited data upload/download, note that the speedtest does use up quite a bit of data… I’ve already used 0.8GB of data in 3 days with very light use