Redundant internet using a Tomato capable router

TLDR; Get a tomato-capable router. Use its multi-WAN function to fuse connections from two ISPs together

Rant

Internet situation in India is bad. I am currently living in New Delhi but was based in UK for the last 5 years. I had got used to 50mbps and even 100mbps unlimited connections. After moving back I was a bit surprised to learn things hadn’t moved on much at all since I left. Only a couple of ISPs (Airtel and MTNL) in Delhi were capable of providing stable connections. Fast, unlimited plans were nowhere to be found. I was frequently paying more than Rs4,000 per month for internet, due to all the additional data I was using. This was on Airtel’s 8mbps plan which came with a 80GB ‘FUP’[^1]. I was paying far less for completely unlimited 50mbps/100mbps plans back in UK!

So I bit the bullet and got a connection from a local ISP called ‘Excitel’. I had never heard of them and was dubious about their ability to provide a reliable connection. But their 50mbps unlimited connection at Rs 800 per month was enticing enough. Four guys turned up to do the installation. The internet came over a LAN cable flung from the nearest khamba[^5]. I had last got internet this way more than 10 years ago[^2]. As expected the connection was very unreliable. I was raising several support tickets each week to get the connectivity restored each time it went down. I had wisely not disconnected Airtel yet. So whenever Excitel went down I could switch wifi connections and start using Airtel for a few hours. So I now had unlimited internet for about Rs1800 per month for the two connections(after switching to Airtel’s lowest 10GB plan). But the manual switching of wifi connections was getting annoying.

After a few months of putting up with this I finally put a solution in place. I have been running Tomato firmware[^3] on my router since many years. And recently the developers added multi-WAN functionality to the firmware. Perfect. I updated the router and made the required configuration changes and lived happily ever after.

How-To

Here are the steps to follow if you find yourself in a similar situation -

  1. Get a router that supports Tomato firmware (anything that has a broadcom chip inside). Get one of these if you are unsure. I am using a Netgear WNR3500L v2[^4].

You should now have an always up connection which automatically falls back to using your 2nd ISP when the first one goes down.

Notes

[^1]: ISPs in India really need to stop abusing the term ‘Fair Usage Policy’ [^2]: Anyone remember Sify Broadband? [^3]: Tomato is an opensource firmware that can supercharge your router. [^4]: Fun fact, I purchased four of these for £1 each a few years ago :) [^5]: Utility pole

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