Double the speed of rural broadband: A beginners’ guide to bonded DSL, part 1

If, like me, you’re stuck in the dark ages in terms of your telephone exchange, all is not lost. 

While you may look at broadband comparison sites and think you’re stuck with an ‘up to’ 8Mb connection, in most cases this isn’t actually the case; chances are you can double or triple that speed.

This is possible thanks to a process known as bonded broadband, or bonded DSL. The concept itself is incredibly simple – take two to four standard telephone lines and ‘bond’ them together to make one faster one. Simple.

I’ll put my cards on the table right now: Eclipse has set me up with a connection to test in my home over the next few months. However, I’ve got no reason to lie about the experience since setting up the test, an unbundled broadband supplier has started to offer services in my exchange and I’m reliably informed another is on the way – so if I pour fire down on Eclipse from on high here I can actually go and get faster broadband elsewhere!

So, as I mentioned, I’m on a pretty poor exchange that has a maximum of 8Mb speeds. Luckily for me I can literally see said exchange out of my bedroom window and I’ve been reliably informed by a local BT engineer that the pipes that come into our apartment block run direct to it, without even passing go. He was actually surprised when I told him I’d struggled to get faster than 6Mb through my previous supplier, O2 – he thought I should be getting closer to the max 8Mb.

So it’s not all doom and gloom and I’m aware that many reading this may only get 1Mb or 2Mb. However, as someone who works from home, reviews online services and often needs to have several devices connected to my broadband at once, I’m very aware of how things can quickly become difficult. Over the next few months I’ll bring you some details of my experiences.

First, I need to note the fantastic increase in speeds since getting bonded DSL (I’m on just two lines, not the fastest possible). I’ve ran several speed tests at different times of the day this week since installation and I’ve consistently hit download speeds about 13Mb – more than double what I was receiving before on O2 (I say O2 – it was O2 I was paying the bill too, but it wasn’t unbundled of course). Upload speed has tested at more than 1Mb each time as well.

Second, I should note the price because Eclipse bonded DSL isn’t cheap. You’ll pay a set-up fee of £100-200 and then a monthly fee of between £90-120 (two bonded lines) to £160-190, depending on your monthly usage allowance. You’ll also have to pay line rental on each telephone line (from two to four, of course).

You may think this puts the service into the realm of just businesses and football players, but it’s worth thinking about the extra multimedia benefits you can reap too: I can now enjoy Spotify, movies streamed through my standard Freeview television (via an LG smart TV upgrader) and OnLive console gaming through my PC all at once – with no need to pay Sky, Virgin or BT for the privilege. It’s worth thinking about. 


  • neutral

    by Andrew Ferguson at 12:21 on 14 Feb 2012 Report abuse

    Getting 6Meg from standard ADSL services is pretty normal, as maximum speed test on an 8Meg service is 7Meg, protocol overheads etc

    They will be what actual connection speed shown by modem, and peak versus off-peak performance.

    O2, Sky and TalkTalk in non-LLU areas are often very poor at peak times. The cheapish price means less investment in backhaul, which is where a lot of the cost of the Eclipse bonded service goes.

    ADSL here was 5Meg speedtests, and just over 3.5km (45dB) from exchange in a rural area, so fields and farmland does not always mean slow speeds.

  • neutral

    by Paul Haigh at 10:08 on 20 Mar 2012 Report abuse

    There's an issue with bonded Rate Adaptive DSL (So called "upto" services) that you're close enough to the exchange to be lucky enough to avoid. At your distance, your lines will sync at pretty much full rate, meaning that both lines will always be equal. Further from the exchange this will not be the case and you'll end up with variance in SNR and subsequent variations in speed. The upshot of this is that the speed you see will only ever be double the slowest line at any given point in time. We've seen bonded lines that are actually slower than a single line because the 2nd line is so poor. Unfortunately therefore, this may not necessarily be a solution for those with 2Mb or less sync speeds.

  • neutral

    by Gavin Murphy at 11:23 on 21 Mar 2012 Report abuse

    Eclipse Bonded DSL works at the IP layer. Our bonding solution is aware of the speeds of each line and weights the traffic according to the individual line speed making full use of all the lines, combining them to give the full aggregated speed, rather than just double, triple or quadruple the slowest line. Only a small fraction of the speed is lost in the bonding process. Happy to chat this through if you have any more questions.

  • happy

    by Martin at 19:24 on 15 Apr 2013 Report abuse

    Another option (especially for business use) is Peplink Balance routers. They can do Link load balancing across up to 13 DSL lines (breaking Eclipses 4 DSL limit), and when two are used you can use VPN bonding to create a single logical connection using all of the availble links. Pretty clever stuff. We used peplink for our site to site VPN instead of paying for Eclipses Bonded service. Which was ultimately cheaper as the monthly charge for Eclipse's bonded DSL is pretty high.

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