back to article Faster broadband through bonding

Sex, money and chocolate are supposed to be the three things you can't have too much of. There is a fourth: Bandwidth. One way to have twice as much bandwidth is to have two lines, but getting them to work together isn't simple. Sharedband, a spin-off from BT Martlesham, is poised to launch a UK service to do just this. An …


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  1. James

    bonding bah

    Not forgetting the fact that if you bond off different dslams (which i have seen) some of them report that the line has the full bandwidth of that dslam avaliable. This brings down the bond as everything tries to "flow" over the 100Mb line rather than the bond....

  2. Christian Berger

    Yes, but who cares about downloads?

    I mean downstream speed is largely irrelevant since DSL. The real bottleneck is upstream and that's rather simple to increase by bonding.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    erm... channel bonding?

    didnt we have this sort of thing with 2+ modems? or is it the "no dropped connections" bit thats clever...

    just did a quick search and there are tons of guides on how to combine 2 or more network connections... i seem to remember a few boxen out there that could do the job already...

    paris because shes had her channels bonded for quite a while...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    channel bonding: update

    for your reading pleasure:

    gives a short list of some of the other boxes

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what's new?

    Nildram were offering this years ago......

  6. Carl

    use cable and ADSL?

    Would be great if you could use cable on one router and ADSL on the other, effectively using both NTL's and BT's broadband networks. That would offer proper diversity (or is it separacy, I can never remember which is which).

  7. Chris Williams
    Thumb Up


    This is a great idea and an increase in upload speed would be a big bonus; on an 8Mb line, there are few *real* problems using the web (apart from downloading the Crysis demo), but managing sites remotely could be a little more zippy (as in fast, not as an allusion to the Rainbow character) if it didn't have the characteristics of a bit of wet string joining two tin cans.

    I notice the company's address is Ipswich, just down the road from BT's research centre (if geography and memory serve me correctly). Is this a coincidence or is BT secretly working on something of their own rather than using their gigantic advertising budget to announce 'innovations' that somebody else invents and that BT embraces once fully tested -- it would spoil their reputation if they actually did something good for UK IP networking rather than simply taking credit when they have no choice but to belatedly support something already in the public domain.

    Oh wait -- a deal with BT Wholesale? So presumably this has had little to do with them until now, but will be the headline innovation in a new bunch of ads for their overpriced offerings.

    All kudos to Sharedband!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Proper bonding please

    I'd rather BT stopped wasting their time on bonding kludges like this and concentrated on getting something like G.998.1 working on their DSLAM. G.998.1 bonds at the ATM layer, so is almost completely transparent to the network apart from between the DSLAM and end user, and will be far more future-proofed for 21CN features like Quality of Service.

  9. Andy
    Paris Hilton

    Going around in circles?

    I'll be first in with the practical question - how on earth did somebody get hold of where the exchanges are?

    I'm looking at buying a house soon and if this can be done by the average member of the public, I want to do it! It's easy enough to check mobile signal strength while looking at a property but asking to run a speedtest over their broadband may get frowned at....

    PH - because if she was drawing her own circles we'd all be happy to give her the help she needs.

  10. Tim Parker

    Ring circuit on the phone ? Filters ?

    "So what's a speed-hungry surfer to do?"

    Use cable ?

  11. Nick Ryan Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Nothing new here...

    There nothing new here at all... various other vendors already provide load balancing and fail-over safety (which is all this really is) between two, and sometimes more, WAN connections.

    The problems start *because* you have two different WAN (ADSL) connections, and therefore two different IP addresses. For example, when a user logs onto a website and happens to be using line 1 (with one IP address), when they click a link the router may start using line 2 (with a different IP address) and as a result most websites will flag up a security issue as the second request has come from a different IP address.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cute, but...

    A router is a computer; there's no reason you can't do this with two network cards in a PC although you might have to write a dedicated driver to mix and match the IP traffic.

    Also, how much will this help when there are contention issues?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Exchange Locations for Exchange Info..

  14. Alex
    Gates Halo

    Hmmm I think I may set up a RAN(tm)

    a Residential Area Network(tm)!

    living in a courtyard of purpose built apartments, all within 1km of the exchange, all with broadband (my neighbours use a mix of BT, BE, SKY, Virgin, etc) it would be quite tasty if we could aggregate all our BB lines to get a shared 16x 8mb Down 512kb up, i.e: a fictional 128mb Down x 8mb Up!

    oh but hang on, my BT Broadband line, according to BTspeedtester, only lets me get 24kb down (its broken, again.) perhaps with the help of all my neighbours I might get to down load the ubuntu torrent in under two days!

    that said, still who's going to offer me 1.9bn for a 10% stake in my new start up in which I sell a Residential Area Network(tm) Solution involving mysterious black boxes containg routers with a bit of hacked firmware and loads of flashing leds.

    come on then, who's in!!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Contention & RE: Proper Bonding Please (and others)

    Agree totally - a far better solution would be to bond at the ATM layer therefore balancing downloads far more effectively. One major snag though, my small business suffers not because of line speed but because of contention. Two routes from the same wholesale provider won't alleviate contention. I know a major backbone operation is well under way, but also need to focus their efforts on better local trunking as well as last mile speeds. BTW anyone know why they have to dig up the road to get fibre to the door (quoated by BT as the major cost obstacle)? Most BT lines to houses are in the sky, so surely all we need is some resillient/steel strengthened optical cabling and fibres to the poles?

  16. Mark


    I've never heard of this tool, anyone got a web page for it?

  17. Fred
    Thumb Up

    Ring circuit?

    Erm, its the bell circuit.. as stated make sure u use filters cos its got a built in capacitor... and its wire No. 3 in the back of the NTE and extension socket...

    This is an interesting idea... but u know you'll be paying line rental for another line. No wonder BT are trying this lol...

  18. Tim
    Thumb Down

    Who cares about speed...

    ...if you can only download enough data to fill one DVD? I'm talking about the "Fair Use Policy." It's an Orwellian name because when one is offered unlimited internet access at high speed transfers, the FUP cuts that off before the end of the month; unless that is you are only surfing and emailing in which case a half megabit connection should be sufficient.

    Can anyone say "Trade Descriptions Act?"

  19. alain williams Silver badge

    Let's do it properly!

    What I find amazing is that new housing estates are being built with the same crappy comms infrastructure that we have elsewhere. How difficult/expensive would it be to run fibre into every new house an connect to a decent switch on the street corner ? It is hardly as if new houses were being sold for the lowest possible prices.

    When, in this country, will a bit of forwards thinking become visible ?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Draytek 2910

    Has two WAN ports, I use two ISPs, requests go down both channels and if one fails, my connection stays up.

  21. Joe in the street

    Missing the point

    Real World calling - Not everyone has the skills or the inclination to develop a DIY verson of the shareband product. A non-technical graphic designer would be delighted if he can signifcantly increase his speed with an off the shelf - idiot proof product. Surly, that is who the product is designed for.

  22. Graeme

    Close to Exchange Not Always Good Speed

    Although it is a good approximation just being near the exchange doesn’t necessarily mean you will get a good synchronisation speed. This depends on two main factors Signal to Noise Ratio and Line attenuation. Generally closeness to the exchange means you will have a better attenuation however I have seen a number of PSTN lines that although near the exchange BT engineers have told me the physical line is over 5KM before they get to the exchange. External noise is very variable and can be introduced by a range of factors many of which are hard to troubleshoot.

    Just worth noting before buying a house based on expecting good speed

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hardware ADSL Bonding..

    hasn't firebrick done this for a few years now?

  24. F Cage
    Thumb Down

    Not a new product

    This sort of service is not new and has been offered for some time by the likes of Andrews & Arnold (

  25. Jamtits

    Do people that use the word "kudos" ever amount to anything?

    Q: Don't I need some support from my ISP(s) to recombine my traffic coming off these multiple links?

    No, as far as your ISP(s) are concerned, you are just a normal user. You don't need anything from them except a standard connection.

    TeePipe Home includes an HTTP proxy that runs on your local machine. It intercepts the requests that your browser makes and automatically distributes them across the available links. Since each page you see on your screen is typically composed of many HTTP requests, this works quite well.

    For FTP requests, the proxy can split the requested file into "chunks" and distribute the downloading of the chunks across the links.

    For web pages that do not include any other HTTP requests (no images, no frames, no flash), there will be no speed improvement because the page can only go over one link. Luckily (unluckily?) there are not any pages like this left on the internet. :)

    Note that the absolute best possible solution would be if you could distribute the traffic byte-by-byte across the available connections, rather than only load balancing HTTP requests. To do this, you would need something at the head end to recombine the streams together. There just happens to be a*perfect* system that already does exactly this. It is called Google Web Accelerator. If Google would only publish an API for this product (or even just tell me that they don't mind if I hack it), then TeePipe Home would be able to perfectly use all the bandwidth you've got. So, if you know anyone who works in the Google Web Accelerator department, please urge them to get in touch with me!

  26. James Grinter

    BT Martlesham

    @Chris Williams - no coincidence. The article even points out that they're a spin-off from BT's Martlesham labs...

    (and, despite BT's general inability to get things done, they have invented and pioneered a few things over the years.)

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    load balancing routers?

    and surely ther are routers that can load balance already?

    ps @graeme mr skinner i presume

  28. martinhill

    Very expensive

    The solution for bonding ISP connections has been round for years. This service from Sharedband does seem very expensive for consumers when such services are available for businesses but on a greater scale and higher return on investment. Bonding connections for general internet use and VPNs are available from a manufacturer called Xrio - their highest spec box allows up to 32 ISP connections and provides QoS and load balancing functions that can be used in conjunction with bonding and failover.

  29. Harvey Watts

    mulitlink PPP is another way, been using it for years

    Several UK ADSL ISPs support this is the one behind a commonly used Linux distro. You can bond upto 6 or so ADSL lines together of any speed but they do need to be with the same ISP. You get a totally bonded connection up and down stream with either a single IP or a block if you so wish and the cost is often only the cost of the lines + £10

  30. Tom

    Unless this is something other than multilink PPP

    then isn't this about the same as a story about them new fangled "internets".

    Seriously, some journalistic work please, don't just respout some press release. Are they doing packet splitting on both upload and download, or (as is common) only on the upstream side, and doing roun-robin on the downstream?

    @Carl - if you had homogenous connections from different isps, then you would have no way of splitting and combining the packets to bond the lines together. In effect, you'd just have multi-homed redundancy, with no increase in bandwidth. You would need something like suggested by 'Jamtits', which is then sub-optimal, as all packets first have to travel to a 3rd party host before being reassembled and going on to their final destination. This wouldn't work so well, as the packets carrying your split packets would take different routes to the third party, increasing the complexity of recombining, essentially increasing latency.

    @andy - . I wrote a tiny greasemonkey script which parsed the postcode from a listing on, submitted an ajax request to samknows and placed the distance from the exchange right in the flat advert. Its hard being a nerd.

  31. Eddie Johnson
    Thumb Up

    @alain williams

    Its not fiber that needs to be run into houses, but conduit. I know people who wired there houses up for Ethernet and stereo and such when built 10-20 years ago. Well, guess what? Their wiring won't support 100Mbps or Gbit Ethernet today. Its all about upgradeability and that is accomplished with conduit. Pull out the old coax installed 10 years ago, replace with twisted pair. Pull that out, replace with fiber. Pull that out, replace with ________.

  32. Jason Rivers

    taken a while

    It's taken them a while to let people know about this.

    I went for a job interview at their Ipswich office about a year ago - decided it wasn't really what I wanted to do, though that said, I'd have loved to be the engineer behind it all instead of programming CGI / PHP pages. But even then, they were talking to me about "Multiple ISP Bonding" though were very vague when I asked questions on it, I couldn't work out if that was because i didn't work for them and everything was a little "hush hush" or if the guy wasn't really sure of what the technical people were doing in the basement.

    anyway - nice to see that they're finally doing something with it. But I think I'll stick to my single ISP bonded line and failover backup line for now.


  33. Martin

    @Eddie Johnson

    Pull that out, replace with .. wireless. Oh, wait.

  34. Henry
    Thumb Up

    @several of you

    Here's some info on how it works, straight from the mouth of someone who worked there for a while last year:

    "Would be great if you could use cable on one router and ADSL on the other" - I don't think there's any technical obstacle to this. I don't know what's available in product form though.

    "The problems start *because* you have two different WAN (ADSL) connections, and therefore two different IP addresses" - Sharedband handles this by giving you a completely new IP address from a pool that they own themselves. The two separate Internet-visible IP addresses of your two ADSL lines aren't used to communicate with the sites you visit. As a result your publically visible IP address stays the same no matter which of the bonded lines your packets happened to travel through.

    "Several UK ADSL ISPs support this", "Unless this is something other than multilink PPP" - It's not multilink PPP, it works at the IP level. The bit that's new is the ability to bond together DSL lines _from different providers_ which as far as I know isn't possible with multilink PPP.

    "all packets first have to travel to a 3rd party host before being reassembled and going on to their final destination" - correct, this is exactly how it works. The latency impact is unnoticably small (this isn't speculation, I measured it) because the 3rd party hosts are located in ISP data centres with fast, low-latency connections to high speed backbone pipes. The "single point of failure" issue here is addressed by integration with BGP; if any of the "3rd party hosts" goes down, another can take over by re-routing the affected block of customer IP addresses.

  35. Phil Thompson

    it isn't multilink

    This is packet splitting and aggregation at the TCP/IP level, presenting multiple parallel connections as a single pipe to client PCs with a single external IP address and combining both upstream and downstream bandwidths to give increased capacity both ways.

    A pair of Sharedband Max Premium lines combine to give you a 1.5Mbits/s upstream, handy for remote access or mail servers etc.

    Unlike MLPPP it doesn't require the connections to terminate in the same hardware at each end, unlike a Firebrick it uses bog standard hardware costing less than £50 per line at the users end (the Firebrick is also a bit crippled with regards to throughput).

    It can easily be used via two or more different ISPs or even different technologies ie a cable line and an ADSL line.

    Sharedband's CEO would be the first to say its nothing that hasn't been discussed years ago, but real world practical applications of inverse multiplexing aren't common.


  36. Anonymous Coward

    need the tech. not the speed

    look, if you want faster upload speed you ditch the ADSL and get the proper stuff eg HDSL or SDSL

    what I want to see iss the ISPs actually providing all the modern protocols on their networks - multicast, jumbo frames and IPv6 would be a good start! so few

    let their punters have those features :-(

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Enthusiastic Home User?

    I can see how it might help with browsing, downloading, or whatever, internetwise --- but enthusastic use of my home?

    Nah... don't need it.

  38. Paul Evans

    You want the the truth? You can't handle the truth

    I can formally state that Sharedband is not part of BT or one of its spin-outs. We have a relationship with BT Wholesale at the moment who are acting as a non-exclusive distributor of our technology. So sorry to all the conspiracy theorists out there :-) But I must confess, sadly one of the rumours is true, we are based in Ipswich.

    As Phil says, line bonding has been around for decades and is a neat solution that solves a real need. We saw that most bonding solutions on the market were complex to use, expensive and tied to a single ISP so we set out to bring a scaleable, low-cost and easy to use solution to the masses.

    Our current product range is purely focussed on the small business market, who can justify installing multiple Broadband lines into their premises to get faster connectivity and better resilience. When compared to the availability / price of some alternative solutions such as leased lines, Sharedband is a very cost effective solution. Apart from some home workers and speed enthusiasts we don't expect many residential customers to implement the service today - multiple phone lines / DSL connectivity simply won't cost in for the majority.

    A future product will eventually tackle the residential market, whereby neighbours can pool their Broadband connections (whichever provider) over wireless - but that's still a little way off.

    Our product, especially with the imminent release of v2.0, enables a single session e.g. file transfer, to use the aggregate up / down stream speed e.g. 4 x 2Mbps lines can download at up to 8Mbps (depending upon congestion etc). If you've only got lines delivering 24k like poor Alex does, we can only do so much - but we'll try to use what bandwidth is available to maximum customer benefit.

    I hope this helps.


  39. Nick Ryan Silver badge


    Next time you pay for an article on a tech site like the register... make sure you put all the relevant details in the advertorial.

    For example, the fact that your service involves the routing of all traffic through your own proxy servers, which then present a single IP address to the public Internet is a pretty large omission and is pretty critical to the whole operation and is something that separates it from the hundreds of other load balancing/fail over solutions, both software and hardware, that currently exist.

    Of course, operating a proxy like that adds a single point of failure to a system that other than this single proxy would provide fail over safety (as well as improving data throughput). [although you could load balance/fail over the proxy server as well]

    On the other hand, as far as I can see it (and I haven't put much effort into this), a lot of readers here could easily put together something like this themselves... just by installing a proxy server in a data centre and setting it as the proxy for their local network.

  40. david Silver badge

    shared bandwidth

    The energy is bound to the wire, but flows in the space surrounding the wire. In the old co-ax, between the inner core and the outer shied. In twisted pair, just around the twisted pair.

    This means you sort of share your bandwidth with your neighbours, because all your cables are bundled together until they get to your house. It also means that when you get multiple ADSL connections, they sort of share the same bandwith. In old systems, that would have meant errors. In modern systems, it just means things go slower.

    Thats the general theory, but what does it mean in practice? If anyone here knows the total 'bandwith' of a 32 pair cable is, I'm curious.

  41. Paul Evans


    Dear Nick

    We have not paid The Register to write an advetorial on us, I'm sure they'll be the first ones to confirm this. My posting was intended to clarify a few points that had been raised in the forum - I didn't want to go into a long sales pitch. I'd be delighted to go into lots of technical depth with you or anybody else, but this forum isn't the appropriate place for a detailed technical description.

    Best wishes, Paul

  42. alex dekker


    re: Going around in circles?

    re: DMT

    I used this to tweak the SNR on my BeBox and got an extra meg downstream; SNR is now ~4.5dB, and the current session has been up for three weeks. Can't say fairer than that.

    re: need the tech. not the speed

    SDSL is going end of life shortly. ADSL2+ gives faster upstream than SDSL anyway!

  43. Keith Collins

    A few more facts - not paid for

    Sharedband has a patent granted on the methods used – so I’m sure it’s a unique solution. It’s simply software which is added to low cost routers at the customer’s site and software that runs on industry standard servers at a datacenter where an ISP aggregates the streams of data. Using commodity hardware and readily available services keeps set up costs to a minimum and make it flexible, fast and easy to deploy. There are some really smart management tools so ISP’s can run the service i.e. IP address management, line performance monitoring etc. This makes it easy for ISP’s to scale the service and meet the demand for more and more bandwidth – especially with small businesses that really need faster upstream.

    The bank of servers at the datacenter should be clustered for resilience – avoiding any single point of failure there and when there are multiple lines using a diverse range of IP connections (ADSL, Cable, SDSL or even leased lines) it is possible to dramatically improve the reliability of the internet connection. Having public IP addressing managed on the servers at the datacenter means that users are not tied to any one pipe and can chop and change their lines as needed.

  44. keith

    bonding wtf is bonding

    ok let me get this straight the only way to get fast broadband is to put another line in ya home to join it with your current line this i have to see this will be a laugh i cant honestly see this working why not just rip out all the old lines and put fucking new ones in. i mean jeesus christ its not that hard surly and also it will cost customers a fortune by doing this i might aswell move to a fucking cable area cause bts lines and speed suck inless bt seriously do something major and some big improvments why dont bt join h20 and start installing fibre optic all over

  45. Pete

    Don't forget

    Your are choosing to pay twice, to acheive the original promised bandwith...

    Its a con, Telco's are a disease.

    have a nice day!

  46. Wayland Sothcott
    IT Angle

    Bonding used to work well

    Bonding has been around since ISDN. Two 64's would add up to a 128kbps, it worked with Demon and Quik Internet. It even worked with two standard ADSL lines, but since we have had ADSL MAX it's not worked properly. The ISP's say that BT are putting in some sort of spoiler. You can get twice the upload speed, almost 800+800 = 1400. This is very noticable since web pages and other activities are a lot more snappy. However it seems to make no difference to the download speed from a single source. It looks to me like BT have been holding this technology back for their own use.

  47. Henrik Madsenh



    I'm talking about the "Fair Use Policy." It's an Orwellian name because when one is offered unlimited internet access at high speed transfers, the FUP cuts that off before the end of the month; </quote>

    The Danish word "fup" means phoney, or trick, so it seems appropriate

  48. Darren Gallagher
    Paris Hilton

    As the crow flies.

    Your house could be smack bang next to an exchange, however, if it loops out over you're buggered. Althouth rare it does happen. There's also the fact that if your lines degraded, no man of woman or BT born can get that bad boy sorted. BT are never going to go for a " Last Mile " Option residentially, far too expensive.

    Sorry to bore you all. I'm losing the will to live and realise I'm doing my own head in. PH because I like a woman in glasses. She's called Doreen.

  49. fluffels
    Black Helicopters

    bondage. fun.

    i'd rather take 2x 8mb lines, and have one 8 down / 834 up (as i have now), and a second 834 down / 8mb up, and bond them. seeing as up/down ratios can be *very easily changed*, why isn't it offered?

  50. Joseph Kang

    Beware what you ask for

    We recently moved to an ISP who's giving us a "2mb" circuit (two bonded T1s). All is fine except if you have one misbehaving circuit.

    We had one of our T1s bouncing frequently for a short while. It basically killed all of our network traffic because individual sessions would have to go through a TCP timeout. We would have been better off if that bad T1 had just dropped completely and stayed down.

    We ended up unplugging the bouncing circuit until the Telco fixed the problem.

  51. Michael Warburton

    Draytek 2820

    I'm considering buying a Draytek 2820

    1 x ADSL WAN port, and 1 x Ethernet WAN port for either cable or into another ADSL router.

    Anyone had experience with this?

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