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LAN & WAN How To

Introduction

If you're responsible for a small network, whether at your home or small business, sooner or later you're going to face the problem of a few users that use up most of your bandwidth. Large downloads and heavy P2P users (BitTorrent, Morpheus, etc.) are usually the culprits. But gaming and multiple video streams can also make for unhappy people.

You would think that this is a perfect opportunity for consumer router makers to differentiate themselves and get a bit more money (and hopefully, profit) from a product category that generally provides precious little. But, in general, bandwidth control has been largely ignored by most makers.

The few companies that do address the issue of bandwidth control, D-Link most notably, use Ubicom's StreamEngine automatic QoS (Quality of Service) technology. But StreamEngine is largely an uplink bandwidth optimizer that is focused on prioritizing real-time traffic, such as gaming, VoIP and other applications that depend on the timely transit of packets, over all other types of network traffic.

Figure 1 shows the "GameFuel" (D-Link's marketing-speak for Ubicom's StreamEngine) settings in the DGL-4300 router that is my main network router.

D-Link Gaming Router "GameFuel" auto-QoS settings
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Figure 1: D-Link Gaming Router "GameFuel" auto-QoS settings

All you need to do is enable "Traffic Shaping" (a more descriptive term), and the router handles the rest. Most people will enable the Automatic Uplink Speed option, which measures your Internet connection's actual uplink speed each time the router is rebooted. I disabled this option and manually entered my uplink speed because I got annoyed one day during a series of reboots at how long the measurement took.

You do have the Add GameFuel Rule option that you can use to manually set the priority on uplink traffic. But for that, you need to know the port number being used by the application. The Active Sessions screen (Figure 2) can be somewhat helpful in figuring out which ports to prioritize. But P2P applications are notorious for being able to shape-shift their port use to get around filters. So you can have a devil of a time figuring out which ports to tweak, only to find that they changed on you!

Sessions report
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Figure 2: Sessions report

Linksys added manual uplink QoS features across their consumer router line some time ago. But, as Figure 3 shows, the controls are manual and again apply to uplink traffic only. There are two nice features that Linksys provides, however, which are the ability to control bandwidth priority by client (based on two MAC addresses) and physical switch (Ethernet) port. However, these controls are all uplink only, so not really helpful to control someone sucking up all download bandwidth.

Linksys QoS
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Figure 3: Linksys QoS

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