Thursday, September 17, 2015

Talktalk HG633 Fibre Broadband Router Nightmare Saga

On the 11th of May our fibre router arrived, and our service went live on the 14th May. It was great, finally we got fast broadband, even if we did have to pay a small premium for it. It worked well for about 2 months.

On the 17th or 18th of July we had family staying and our guests began to report a problem with our internet connection. I was initially reluctant to do anything about it, but at the beginning of the following week I phoned Talktalk customer support.

The problem was intermittent - sometimes the speed would be perfect, at about 20Mbps, and other times it would drop to the point where speed tests would time out, and it was barely possible to check for new emails. The router always reported a good sync speed, and rarely if ever lost connection to the exchange. Rebooting the router always fixed it, sometimes for many hours, sometimes for only a few minutes.

Thus began the long saga where I would have to have line test after line test done. Every call to Talktalk required a fresh explanation of the problem, and the usual "I've completed a line test and it shows there are no problems". We had a BT engineer visit and he replaced our master socket, but reported that there was no problem with the line, which of course we already knew, as the sync speed was good, and the connection didn't drop.

Talktalk became pretty frustrating when they kept asking for the same ping and tracert tests to be done over and over. Then there were days of delays while their "network team" analysed my results. On one occasion they told me the ping and tracert results were "incorrect", and made me do them again - so I sent results that were exactly the same again; this time they were OK. Ping and tracert results were sent on 29 Jul, 6 Aug, 8 Aug, and 1 Sept.

Time continued to pass, July, and now August was almost gone.

Searching google for this yielded no fruit. This new HG633 router seems to cause problems, but no one was reporting the same problem as me. I was getting nowhere with the diagnosis and decided to take things into my own hands. The HG633 is very much a consumer level router, and doesn't even allow certain ports to be used, so I had toyed with the idea of buying my own router anyway, but they can be hugely expensive. I settled on the TP-Link TD-W9980 which is not as expensive as others, but reported good results. I ordered the router on 25th August, and it arrived on the 1st September. I spent a while fighting with settings (an updated firmware added Talktalk to the setup wizard, and that made it easy) and once I got it working it stayed working for a few days. The two issues with this new router were that the sync speed was only half of the HG633, and the wireless range wasn't nearly as good. But it worked. I believe this is the root of the problem.

I was waiting for Talktalk to phone over the weekend, but there was no word. So I finally called Talktalk on Monday 7th Sept, and the guy was seriously suggesting going through the "we need to do a line test stuff". I had to be quite firm, and actually talk over him (which I don't like doing) but since he didn't read my notes (it seems they don't even have a summary that pops up on their screen!) I had to explain the problem was ongoing, and that with my personal purchase of a new router the problem seems to have gone away. I had decided that rather than trying to get the new router to sync at a higher speed I would simply request a new router. So they agreed to send me a new router.

I used testmy.net/auto to run periodic (10 or 15 minute intervals) speed tests over many days. The results testing is below, marked with the different routers.

The left side of these test results shows how with the Talktalk router the speed would drop right to zero. In the centre section where the speed is more like 11M (TP-link router) you can see how stable it is, apart from three drops, where there were other big downloads happening at the same time as the speed test. And when I plugged the original router back in, you can see it operating OK, and then failing again. I persuaded Talktalk to send me a new router, and plugged it in with great hope, followed by great disappointment. As you can see from the first of the two sections on the right, it was still just as unreliable.

At this point I did some better research and spent about £170 on a Netgear Nighthawk D7000 router. It seemed to get good reviews and reportedly had a good wireless range. I restarted the Talktalk router while I waited for the Netgear to come, and it seemed to perform better in the meantime. However I didn't trust it to continue.

On Saturday 12th September the Netgear router arrived, so I plugged it in and set it up. So far (Thur 17th) it has performed well, and I haven't rebooted it since Sunday. There have been no re-syncs since, and the speed test results are good. See the continuation of the graph below


There are a couple of spikes, which I can't explain, maybe other big downloads were happening, I don't know, but the router has performed flawlessly so far.

And, due to the fact that telnet can be enabled on this router, DSLStats can be used to see all sorts of interesting data (that I don't understand!) about the router. And it shows my connection speed, and my lack of re-syncs, which are both great. You can see from the graph above as well that although the sync speed is the same on the Talktalk router and the Netgear, that the Netgear consistently provides slightly higher throughput.


So, after almost two months of angst fighting with Talktalk and router configurations, getting a new DSL faceplate, and trying three brand new VDSL2 routers my problem finally seems to be solved.

I will update this article if there are any further developments, but from the point of view I have at the minute, if you are experiencing problems with the Talktalk Super router, don't listen to Talktalk telling you they will sort it, go buy yourself a Netgear Nighthalk D7000 from Amazon, and sort it yourself. And if the router doesn't solve the problem, just return it to Amazon, who are very good for refunds.

3 comments:

Pete Barber said...

Interesting post thanks. I'm planning on switching away from the HG633, most likely to the Nighthawk D7000. I was wondering though. Prior to ADSL2 (or VSL whatever the Fibre over coax protocol is) I had a username & password to login for the modem/router to login to TalkTalk with. When I looked through the settings on the HG633 I couldn't see this.

Do you know if it's hidden or whether you use the original ADSL combination or whether the ADSL2 connection doesn't require one?

Thanks

Pete Barber said...

One other thing. Does TV over IP, i.e. Sky channels work ok via the Nighthawk? Prior to fibre I switched from an older Netgear modem/router to the TT one to enable TV due to lack of IGMP I think.

Simon said...

Pete,

It's been a while since I looked into this, but as far as I remember there is no username or password for the VDSL service offered here, so you just have to set a couple of basic settings and you're up and running. Just google for instructions, that's how I figured it out. I think from memory people had instructions on setting up the IPTV as well, but I don't use that, so I paid no attention, sorry :/