How To Load Balance 2 Connections: Better Internet Abroad

load-balance-internetStable internet is always a concern.

While the internet would go out once in a while in Canada, it was rare and for short periods of time.

Living in Ecuador means that internet isn’t as stable as we were used to. In the past few years, we’ve had the internet cut for days at a time.

While this isn’t the end of the world for the average user, it can be painful for our business – and our schedule.

In order to create a more stable connection, I recently had a second internet connection installed. One is cabled and the other is via an antenna outside of our building.

If the main one failed, I just unplugged it and then plugged in the other. This got a little tedious. And obviously didn’t maximize the available resources and bandwidth.

Interested in what speeds are available in Latin America? Here’s an update on internet in Ecuador.

How I Created A Stable Internet Connection

While I had never heard of a way to join two connections into a single, stronger one, I searched for it. What I found is a technology called “load balancing”.

What is Load Balancing?

Load balancing is a computer networking method for distributing workloads across multiple computers or a computer cluster, network links, central processing units, disk drives, or other resources. Successful load balancing optimizes resource use, maximizes throughput, minimizes response time, and avoids overload. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Essentially, a load balancing router takes multiple incoming internet connections (WAN – wide area network) and combines them into a single, strong connection (LAN local area network). A broadband router with multiple WAN ports is needed.


I found lots of expensive (and heavy) options. Prices ranged from $170 to over $400 for a router with multiple WAN ports. Weight is a concern, because I had to ship it from the US to Ecuador. And I have a maximum value limit of $400 for individual shipments, according to Ecuadorian Customs.

My Load Balancing Router

better-internet-abroadThe router I ended up buying is the TP-LINK TL-R470T+ (5-port Load Balance Broadband Router, 3 Configurable WAN/LAN ports, 1 LAN, 1 WAN). What this description means is that there are a total of 5 ports:

  • 1 dedicated WAN port
  • 1 dedicated LAN port
  • 3 ports that can be configured to either WAN or LAN.

I used the dedicated WAN port and one of the configurable ports as a WAN port as well. So I have two incoming internet connections that then feed a single connection across the three remaining LAN ports. I directly wired two of our computers into the LAN ports. The remaining LAN port feeds my ASUS Dual-Band Wireless-N 600 Router.

The cost was just over $50, plus $15 to ship it to Ecuador. It had a 4.5/5 star rating with 36 customers reviews. Although TP-LINK isn’t a high-end brand, I thought it was worth a try. My biggest concern was configuring it.

Configuring the Load Balancing Router

One of the biggest complaints for this type of router is how difficult they are to configure. Many online reviewers said they just had to return their router because they couldn’t make it work.

When it first arrived, I set it aside because I thought I would need hours to get it setup. I was afraid to change configurations of the current modem/router – and be left with nothing working.

Well, one night I got a burst of blind confidence and in less than 10 minutes the router was functioning and blending (load balancing) my two connections. When it was finished, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Just follow the four steps in the printed guide and you’ll be good to go. Now my connection should almost never fail (because if one cuts, all the traffic automatically switches to the other one). And my bandwidth has increased significantly – even at night when the internet usage is extremely high.

Final Thoughts

It’s been two weeks with the router and I love it. I can’t believe I went the last four years living in Ecuador without it. If you live abroad – and internet is important to you – you should consider getting two connections installed and combining them with a load balancing router.

What has been your experience with internet abroad? Have you used a load balancing router?

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Hi, I'm the Author!

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines has been building (and selling) businesses since high school. Since moving to South America in 2009, Bryan and Dena have made their living as bloggers. Bryan is a partner at Storyteller Media, a content marketing company for Canadian travel brands. He is founder of this site and co-founder of Click Like This - a photo tutorial blog.

46 comments… add one

  • Joe linux Sep 3, 2015, 6:38 pm

    I build load balancers (L.B.’s) here in Cuenca. They are linux based and much more robust than many of L.B.’s you can buy out of the box. L.B.’s I build include a firewall, DHCP , QOS, failover and much more. As mentioned in this article you will notice improved network performance. Organizations with many computers will greatly enhance overall network performance by utilizing L.B’s. Bryan is correct when he says “the few extra dollars we spend is nothing compared to the saved time and stress” The performance increase and stability is well worth the cost.

    I also build linux based media players for home or hotel entertainment. These small devices will allow you to watch virtually any movie, tv-show, youtube, music, news/entertainment channels the internet has to offer. You do not need VPN’s as this box works without regard to which country you are in or from. If your on a slower internet connection you can download movies at night to build up your library and view at a later time. Real time viewing is always best with faster connections. The menu system is elegant and easy to navigate. Contact me should you have questions.

  • Mike Bluett Jan 8, 2015, 11:41 am

    I am curious: Is this a load-balancing router or does it just switch over to the other connection upon failure of the preferred? Load-balancing routers tend to be quite a bit more expensive than you have quoted. That is why I asked the question.

    • Bryan Haines Jan 8, 2015, 6:04 pm

      You can check out the direct link in the post – it is a load balancing router (as the name suggests). :)

      • Mike Bluett Jan 8, 2015, 6:30 pm

        Under their specifications they say “Load Balance: Policy Routing, Link Backup”. Policy routing is about what to do when a connection fails. What this router does is it fails over to a backup connection when the primary connection goes out. I guess this is picking nits, but that is not load balancing. Load balancing is where some traffic goes out one WAN port and some goes out the other simultaneously. The idea is that you balance the load over two or more connections. As I mentioned before you probably wouldn’t want to pay the cost of a true load-balancing router. I guess I am just a stickler for accuracy. Sorry about that.

        • Bryan Haines Jan 13, 2015, 10:21 am

          I’m not a network expert, but according to Wikipedia, “policy-based routing (PBR) is a technique used to make routing decisions based on policies set by the network administrator.” The definition explains that a policy can include instructions for where a router would “forward it (a packet) based on the destination address in the packet.” There is no mention of connection failures in this entry.

          This doesn’t rule out load-balancing – it just means that it is dependent on the policies set by the programmer. Unless I’m understanding this incorrectly?

          • Mike Bluett Jan 13, 2015, 12:22 pm

            Yes, based on Cisco and Juniper documentation you can use a policy for load-balancing. But the router you are using may not have this option as part of its policy configuration. You would have to look for such a n option.

            • Shishir Jun 20, 2015, 2:45 pm

              Mike, this is a load balancer router. You can bind (not bond) two connections to achieve twice the download speed for say P2P or download managers.

              • Mike Jun 21, 2015, 11:23 pm

                Yes, you maybe correct about P2P as there are multiple sessions involved. So, is feasible one link is used for one session and another link is used for an additional session. But the word POLICY is used to describe the router. All policy-based routers I worked with (e.g., Cisco 7507), used policies to describe a fail-over situation. However, we had load-balancing configurations as well, where traffic was sent over both connections. I don’t know why you would need a policy to describe a load-balancing condition, unless you were telling the router how much traffic to send over one link as opposed to another.

                • Imran Aug 17, 2015, 11:20 am

                  Mike, this router is more beneficial in offices where different users are accessing multiple sites/connections simultaneously thus they will get better internet speed.

  • Vikas Dec 18, 2014, 8:01 am


    I need to support 150 users and talked with TP-Link they said it can only support 50 users, can anybody suggest me other way of doing it to support 150 users?

    I have also setup and installed Dispatch Proxy on windows does it will support 150 users?

  • Jack Honeycutt Nov 20, 2014, 6:01 pm

    Do you use magic jack, OOMA or any other VOIP service other then Skype? I am trying to decide if I am going to bring magic jack or some other VOIP service with me when I arrive.

    Do you subscribe to any free or paid service to receive a USA IP address when you surf?

    I would like to leave a comment on how helpful your blog is, but I do not know where to click to do this. Can you direct me? Thanks so much. James (Jack) Honeycutt Portland Oregon – Soon to be in Ibarra Ecuador

    • Bryan Haines Dec 9, 2014, 9:58 am

      Sorry for my slow reply. I missed your question.

      We only use Skype. Many expats use magic jack but I don’t see the need. I’ve looked into a VPN service, but I’m not using one yet.

      All the best on your plans!

  • John McGraw Jul 28, 2014, 7:38 pm

    What two services do you use to load balance? At what megas and cost? Thanx.

    • Bryan Haines Jul 29, 2014, 8:01 am

      You can combine any two connections. I can’t imagine a connection that this wouldn’t work on. It really depends on your budget and your speed requirements.

  • Dan Jul 16, 2014, 2:59 am

    Hey man, you mentioned you followed the “four steps in the printed guide”…which steps would those be? Having a bit of trouble with this currently :/

    • Bryan Haines Jul 16, 2014, 6:22 am

      I don’t think I still have it. There was a guide that came with the router. You can download the guide direct from TP-Link. Hopefully this helps.

  • Kalynda Jun 30, 2014, 10:11 pm

    Forget that question of mine, I just noticed that the second router is wireless. Silly me….

  • Kalynda Jun 30, 2014, 10:05 pm

    Hi Bryan, Great hack! What i don’t understand is why do you need the second router?


  • Ray May 25, 2014, 11:05 am

    You already answered my question…………..Thanks.

    Bryan Haines July 4, 2013, 8:14 am
    Yes, this means two internet connections. It is really a question of how important a stable connection is. In our case, it is how we work – and the few extra dollars we spend is nothing compared to the saved time and stress.

  • Ray May 25, 2014, 10:58 am

    Does this require 2 separate internet providers/sources or a single provider?
    Not quite understanding of the setup of incoming signals.

  • Burt May 24, 2014, 9:29 am

    Excellent timing for me to find this. I am returning to Calif for a week next month, so just ordered this to be waiting for us to bring it back.

    I have been using two ISPs (ETAPA and Puntonet — can’t get TVCable in el Centro), each with its own wireless. When one goes down, I just switch to the other wireless network. Bit of a nuisance though, and doesn’t get the speed benefit of tying both together. Your solution sounds much better than what I have been doing!

    • Bryan Haines May 24, 2014, 1:48 pm

      Nice. Glad that this helped. Let me know how it goes for you.

  • Caleb May 20, 2014, 3:51 pm

    Thanks for the info. We have TVCable in Quito and its pretty awful, cuts out almost daily. We have CNT as a back up but its just for the VOIP phones. I like the idea of combining the two. We are supposed to get fiber optic in the coming months, we shall see.

  • Chris May 20, 2014, 5:50 am

    We need to maintain a static IP address for our business, is there a way to maintain a static IP address when the load balancing kicks in and we switch from one ISP to another?

    • Bryan Haines May 20, 2014, 6:18 am

      I don’t know. This is beyond my knowledge. You might find a good forum with the company to ask that question.

      I’ve noticed that our IP address changes multiple times in the day – usually rotating between 2 or 3 specific numbers.

  • Glenn Mar 5, 2014, 3:27 am

    can you email me the steps on how to mixed up the two internet speeds?

    • Bryan Haines Mar 5, 2014, 7:37 am

      It is actually in the post above. Just setup the load balance router and it will combine both.

      • Glenn Mar 5, 2014, 9:25 pm

        Do I have to check or uncheck any of the fields in the load balance option?
        Coz mine can’t mix the two internets.

  • Trudy Marshall Jan 7, 2014, 7:44 pm

    Hi Bryan. We finally got our internet connection here in Olon after four months. But the biggest pkg that CNT offers in our area is 3MDown/0.5M up. For the job that I want to do, it requires 3M down, and 1M up. CNT can give us a dedicated 1:1 M line for $130 + tax per month. I was wondering if we could install the load balancer and use the combined strength, resulting in 4Mdown/ 1.5M up. Is this what this product does? Although our residential pkg 0f 3M/0.5M can be shared between 8 customers, we are the only people in our neighborhood who have the internet, and the speed test shows that we actually are getting over 3M down and 0.4M up. I just hate to order this item or another internet connection if it is not going to give me the result I need. What is your opinion?

    • Bryan Haines Jan 21, 2014, 8:42 am

      I haven’t done comprehensive speed tests but what you are describing is what a load balancer will do. You can see speed improvements – and the connection will be always-on. And if one connection cuts out – the other one will keep you online.

      • Jack Honeycutt Feb 4, 2014, 10:06 am

        I also bought a TP-LINK load balancing router. Then I talked to HMA about it:

        After about 6/8 weeks, they decided they liked it. It is suppose to appear on the “approved” list of routers they now support.

        I have yet to deploy it. I move to Ecuador this year sometime.

        I have the same understanding as Bryan has. You can down load the manual free on line as a pdf file if you want to learn more.

  • Hansel Jan 2, 2014, 9:26 pm

    Hi Bryan,

    I’m interested with this kind of setup in our office and would like to know more details regarding this. Can I know your Skype ID or would it be ok if you can add me? My Skype ID is hansel.baro. Any help would be very much appreciated. Thanks.


    • Bryan Haines Jan 3, 2014, 9:41 pm

      Hi Hansel – you are welcome to ask questions via the comment section. I’ll do my best to help.

      • Hansel Jan 10, 2014, 5:30 am

        Alright. I would like to inquire regarding Your Router (TP-LINK TL-R470T+) that supports running 2 ISP at the same time. Basically I need a router to do a Load Balance for our 2 ISP (100mbps and 10mpbs), 0 downtime and increase the bandwidth per user.

        My Objectives are the following:

        * Increase the bandwidth per user using the combined 2 ISP (100mbps and 10mbps)
        * Faster and Stable connection in our office.
        * 0 downtime in our office, meaning if 1 ISP shut down the other ISP will support the users to stay connected in the Internet.
        * Security features from hackers and viruses using the Built in firewall of this product.

        Kindly advise if this is possible with the router you’re talking about. You can also have your preferred setup if you can think of a better setup. Any help is very much appreciated.


        • Bryan Haines Jan 21, 2014, 6:56 am

          I don’t have stats to show the increase in speed and bandwidth but yes, this load balancer will do what you are looking for. By combining the 2 connections into one, you will reduce (almost to zero) the possibility of being without a connection. If one fails the other will continue to work.

          By sharing incoming and outgoing bandwidth, the 2 connections can’t help but increase your speed – especially for uploads. This is often the limiting factor with ISPs.

          I don’t have experience with the security features. I know very little about this.

          • Hansel Jan 23, 2014, 2:23 am

            I See. Last question. Do you think this router can Handle 100 users at the same time? My plan is to use this router using the 2 ISP. then connect it to our swithches for Lan connections and the connect it too for our access points (Unifi) Thanks man.


            • Bryan Haines Jan 23, 2014, 5:45 am

              I don’t have experience with that many users at one time. I suppose it would have more to do with what the users were doing online (streaming video or writing emails) than with the number of actual users.

              You should be able to contact the TP-Link directly to confirm this detail.


  • Luc Sep 29, 2013, 7:21 pm

    You share valuable information about Cuenca; however, I am coming to Quito. Do you know of a similar service provided by any ex-pat in Quito?

    thanks for your consideration,

    • Bryan Haines Oct 14, 2013, 3:57 pm

      No, I haven’t seen one. If you find one, please let me know.


  • Jack Honeycutt Jul 30, 2013, 7:22 pm

    Hi… My blu-ray player is smart. It will stream many things to me like Netflicks, and Amazon. My new TV is also smart and will let me surf as well as stream. Both products need to be connected to the internet for BIOS updates.

    I was going to use a Proxy server when I move to Ecuador. I was going to use “Hide my Ass”. Is it possible to configure this unit so it will head to Hide MY Ass and display a USA IP address when I go out to the web in the US and watch netflicks and other streaming services?


  • Jeff Jul 4, 2013, 4:41 pm

    Does the new router have a firewall and DHCP server built-in as well?

    • Bryan Haines Jul 4, 2013, 5:02 pm

      Yes. You can read about this specific router here.
      According to the product description, here are some of the details:

      • Built-in firewall supports IP address filtering, Domain Name filtering, and MAC address filtering
      • Standards and Protocols: IEEE 802.3, 802.3u, 802.3x TCP/IP, DHCP, ICMP, NAT, PPPoE, SNTP, HTTP, DNS
      • Jeff Jul 4, 2013, 5:06 pm


  • David Jul 3, 2013, 12:01 pm

    good article … however, this will only work if you have 2 independent internet sources, correct? Which means 2 internet accounts or double your monthly cost … correct? If that is indeed so many of us xpats can not afford the upgrade … if not so, kindly explain … thanks!

    • Bryan Haines Jul 4, 2013, 8:14 am

      Yes, this means two internet connections. It is really a question of how important a stable connection is. In our case, it is how we work – and the few extra dollars we spend is nothing compared to the saved time and stress.

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