Increase Internet speed by load-balancing two WAN connections with WR740N and OpenWRT
Update for 2020: You can now actually bond two WAN connections, to achieve aggregate speed even on a single TCP connection! Read more here ➡ OpenMPTCProuter: True Bonding of 2 WAN connections for cheap! 🎉
If you have two slower Internet connections, for example DSL and WISP, and want to join them together, this tutorial is for you! Using a cheap router, OpenWRT and some skills and time, you can convert your ordinary router into a load balancing and auto-failover routing machine! Pretty cool!
We will be using the software called
mwan3 as well as
iptables to load balance the two connections.
Note: I’m using OpenWRT and LEDE project interchangeably here, because they’re the same project basically, and are merging currently, but I am using version 17.01.4, which is called LEDE and not OpenWRT.
- TP-Link WR740N
- Linux machine (can be a VM)
- Two WAN internet connections
In my case, I have a DSL connection that’s about 20 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up (realistically 18/1.8 Mbps because I have IPTV and also because of DSL overhead), and a Wireless connection which is 10 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up.
The final result, is 30/4 Mbps connection, which is a perfect increase of speed and is exactly what I expected. See for yourself:
We will be using the WAN (blue) port as the “output”, or LAN, and LAN 1 and LAN 2 as the “input”, or WAN. LAN 3 and LAN 4 will be disabled.
The router’s IP will be 192.168.20.1.
Step 1: Prepare your modems
You need to go into the settings of both of your modems/routers (in my case it’s a
ZTE ZXHN H267N, and
Ubiquity LiteBeam M5 for the WISP connection) and change their IP addresses so that the faster modem has the IP
192.168.1.1 and the slower one has the IP
192.168.2.1. If they’re the same speed, pick one and give it the
192.168.1.1 IP and the other one gets the
Reboot them, make sure DHCP is turned on, and connect to each one using a network cable and verify that the IP they give your computer is in the right subnet (
192.168.1.XXX for first,
192.168.2.XXX for second).
Step 2: Build your own OpenWRT image
Because the router we will be using is very cheap and of poor specifications, it only has 4 MB of Flash memory. This is barely enough for OpenWRT with LuCI (the WebUI) and doesn’t leave enough space for us to install other software.
On a freshly installed Ubuntu 17.10 amd64, you need to perform these steps to build the image. Please note, you will need to wait quite a while for it to download and compile and then build the final binary update.
Please do not skip this step and use a prebuilt image, as it will not work!
- Install dependencies for building the image
sudo apt -y install build-essential subversion libncurses5-dev zlib1g-dev gawk gcc-multilib flex git-core gettext libssl-dev
- Download the ImageBuilder archive
cd ~ mkdir openwrt && cd openwrt wget https://downloads.openwrt.org/releases/17.01.4/targets/ar71xx/generic/lede-imagebuilder-17.01.4-ar71xx-generic.Linux-x86_64.tar.xz tar -xaf lede-imagebuilder-17.01.4-ar71xx-generic.Linux-x86_64.tar.xz cd lede-imagebuilder-17.01.4-ar71xx-generic.Linux-x86_64
- Build the image for
tl-wr740n-v5(note: replace v5 with the version of your router, i.e. TL-WR740N v4.27 should be
make image PROFILE=tl-wr740n-v5 PACKAGES="-ppp -ppp-mod-pppoe -libiwinfo-lua -liblua -libubus-lua -libuci-lua -lua -luci -luci-app-firewall -luci-base -luci-lib-ip -luci-lib-nixio -luci-mod-admin-full -luci-proto-ipv6 -luci-proto-ppp -luci-theme-bootstrap -uhttpd -uhttpd-mod-ubus"
- Image has been built. The .bin firmware file we need is located in
bin/ar71xx/, and the filename is, presumably,
Step 3: Flash OpenWRT to your router
I am not going to dwell on this step for too much, as it’s incredibly easy to do. Place the
lede-17.01.4-ar71xx-generic-tl-wr740n-v5-squashfs-factory.bin image in a folder, reset the WR740N router to factory settings by holding the Reset/WPS button for a few seconds until all lights blink, connect to it via a network cable in port LAN1, open
http://192.168.0.1/, enter credentials admin/admin and go to System Tools on the left, then Firmware Upgrade, click the Select File button, select the firmware, making sure it has
factory in the name, and click Upgrade.
After the upgrade, reset it to factory settings again, then reboot it (turn it off, wait a few seconds, then turn it on). The lights you see should be Power, System (cog) and LAN 1. If you have anything other than LAN 1 plugged in, unplug it now.
Step 4: Configure OpenWRT
- Plug in the cable to the second router (with IP
192.168.2.1) into the WAN (blue) port and wait until you get Internet access.
- Using any terminal client (on Windows you can use PuTTY or KiTTY, which is a fork of PuTTY), connect as user
rootwith no password to
192.168.1.1. You should see the LEDE banner and a shell saying
- Run the following commands in order:
opkg update opkg install nano opkg install mwan3 reboot
- Wait for the router to reboot. The reason we reboot it is because
opkguses RAM to store the packages, and since we’re not going to be using it anymore, there’s no need to store the packages data in RAM anymore, given that we have very little.
- When it’s back, run this
- Download this file and open it in some kind of text editor on your computer
mwan3for editing with
- On your computer, copy the whole file you downloaded and then paste it into
nanoon the router.
- Save the file and exit (by pressing Control+X, then Y then Enter)
- Download this file and open it in a text editor
networkfor editing with
- Copy the contents of the file and paste them into
- Save the file and exit
- Download this file and open it in a text editor
firewallfor editing with
- Copy the contents of the file into
- Save and exit
- Reboot the router with
Check the results
Using this handy page I created, that just outputs your IP address, https://projects.milankragujevic.com/ip.php, you can see that with every refresh your IP will change, meaning that the connection is being balanced between two interfaces,
Note: For ease of administration, I’d recommend you put another router after the WR740N if you are not comfortable administering your home network over the console interface, since the router can’t run
mwan3 and also the LuCI web interface.
That’s all, thanks for reading this tutorial, I hope you have managed to double your Internet connection :)
If you want to learn more about why and how this works, and how to tweak the configuration, you can check out the links below:
- http://lartc.org/howto/lartc.rpdb.multiple-links.html (now offline)
- https://www.comparitech.com/net-admin/lartc-guide-plus-five-alternative-methods/ (thanks to K. Simmonds)
P.S. The OpenWRT/LEDE mapping of switch ports on the WR740N is wrong, and the map they provide as a fix is wrong too. The correct map is shown below:
Port 4 on router maps to Port 1 in LEDE Port 3 on router maps to Port 4 in LEDE Port 2 on router maps to Port 3 in LEDE Port 1 on router maps to Port 2 in LEDE