Saturday, September 25, 2010

AT&T U-verse High Speed Internet


The at&t RG is massive!

Broadband Background
- My road to broadband has been a long journey. I started off way back before there was DSL and Cable modem with IDSL with a symmetrical 144 kbps in both directions. It wasn't cheap. It wasn't fast. But it was very reliable. Next, we got Time Warner road runner and things were now faster and cheaper but a bit shaky for the first couple of years. Then, evil horrible Comcast took over and things got much worse. By now cable modem was pretty stable but comcast's support was just horrible and their definition of unlimited was a joke. This was back before they even stated a 250GB/month limit. You had to just kind of guess what magical line in the sand you might cross before you got a phone call. It doesn't even matter if you ever hit the 250GB limit it's more of a principle thing with me. Plus, comcast powerboost shenanigans really messes with QoS so I couldn't really ever take advantage of it. I left comcsat and went to traditional DSL with a fantastic local ISP. Speeds were pretty slow at around 6mbps down / .55 mbps up (rated 6/768). Speeds weren't great but it was very stable, great pings for gaming, and super responsive support with me always getting a human here locally within a minute (or IM if I chose). I stayed with them for several years until uverse was finally available in my neighborhood. Having recently visited a cousin in law who had fios and becoming very envious of their speed I decided to wait out the remaining contract to avoid early termination fees and jump on the uverse bandwagon.

Install
- Had no interest in their other services just the high speed internet.
- First, I had to disconnect my DSL before I could even get an install date for uverse. This was going to leave me with a short outage which was unacceptable. I guess we could have gotten by with the mifi but still I decided to go back to comcast. I picked up the cable modem and signed up for the $20/month plan. I was only going to keep it a few weeks just to cover my gap anyways. And of course when I got home I couldn't get an IP. I go back to my dsl and chat with a support person. After handing over the modem information they provisioned it and I was up and running. Why is it after all these years EVERY SINGLE TIME I HAVE TO CONTACT SUPPORT TO PROVISION THE MODEM before it would work. They HAVE NEVER done it right at the counter in all the previous years when I swapped out modems. I see nothing has really changed at comcast. I felt dirty and had to shower. The day the DSL went down I gave a quick call back to uverse. They said it can take up to a week before the lines are shown as cleared. Lucky for me the lines did show as cleared, and I even got an appointment the next day!
- Unfortunately I wasn't present during the install but my wife was. So the only information I have is what she told me. He came out and noticed my old IDSL jack which I told him he could re-purpose which he did. I guess it was a dedicated pair that ran through my house and it was good enough for uverse. So my AT&T 2wire 3800HGV-B RG is actually hooked up through a standard phone cable RJ-11. What pisses me off is the tech steamrolled my wife a bit. I had told the wife to use the laptop directly hooking it up to the RG to do a speedtest.net run but the tech just disconnect my main server off my home network and plugged it directly into the RG. Then he installed all this at&t support tool crap on my pc which was a bit difficult to gut since it didn't uninstall properly and even installs 3 windows services. I think I got it all off but that still pisses me off. The wife told him he can't be doing that, and he did it anyways. So I highly recommend you be present during the install. You'll have to create an account and register and all that but don't let them install anything!
- There are several different plans you can get but I went for the highest Max Turbo (24mbps/3mbps) since it was available. It's $65/month plus $3/month equipment fee. You also get stuck with a $150 install fee since I didn't bundle with any of their other services. This chart shows not only downstream but upstream speeds too. I was most interested in the increased upstream speed and the only way to get 3mbps up was with the Max Turbo plan. I stream a lot of media especially to my iPhone. Also, I was planning to work from home more often since my company just moved offices and was now 40 miles away (hour commute each way)!

Performance
- Speedtest.net results are amazing to say the least. This is with QoS turned off so this is the full raw speed:

The best part these are real numbers, sustained throughput, not traffic shapped powerboost crap. It's also unmetered and truly unlimited.

Using uverse realtime my numbers looked really good:

I was an estimated 700ft from the vrad and on the highest profile 32/5. The bitloading graph looks good too with bits loaded pretty much across the entire spectrum.
Read the manual for a more detailed description.


Pings look good with 27ms to google using pingplotter.

Using your own wireless router with the AT&T RG
- There are many reasons why you would want to use your own router. For me is once you go DD-WRT you really can't go back to anything else. There are lots of features missing on the RG compared to most modern routers like upnp and wireless N.
- So reading around it seemed an easy enough task to daisy chain your router off of the att RG. Basically, you plug the wan port of your router into a LAN ethernet port on the RG. Make sure your router is on a different network segment than the RG. So if your RG is 192.168.1.254 your router should be 192.168.0.xxx. You let your router get it's WAN IP using dhcp from the RG. On the RG side you need to find the IP that was assigned to your router, select it, and mark it as dmzplus. RG password is printed on a sticker on the actual device. Disable wireless on the RG. Go back and reboot your router and the RG for good measure. You should notice that your router now has the external WAN IP that the RG has. All traffic should be just passed through the RG to your router where you can do all your static mappings, port forwards, QoS, upnp, and wireless N. Somebody else already wrote up a pretty nice guide so I'll just point you in that direction. I got all this working just fine in about 10 min. Then the real problems began....
- About every 5 min I would lose connectivity for a split second and then it would be restored. You would notice this in long downloads where it would all of a sudden stop. In games like wow, mw2, halo reach it would causes slight pauses once in a while or kick me out of my xbox live party. It can sometimes interrupt your netflix streaming. It was very annoying and took me over a week to track down. First thoughts were it was something with my dd-wrt router (linksys wrt310n). I tried adjusting TCP Timeout values and disabling QoS. I flashed with the latest ddwrt recommended version doing all the proper 30/30/30 resets. Nothing seemed to help. I next eliminated cabling, switches, the pc, etc. Finally, I took my macbook and plugged it directly into the RG and all was fine. The connection was rock solid. So the problem wasn't upstream from the RG out to the vrad. At least it was something I had direct control over. After lots of research and even buying a new router (Netgear WNDR3700. OK this was really just an excuse for me to finally upgrade to a simultaneous dual band wireless N router) I was at my wits end. I was trying to think of what else was different between daisy chaining the routers and going directly to the RG. Then it hit me: dmz plus. When connecting directly to the RG I'm under that RG's nat and firewall, and it was NOT dmz'd. So for kicks I took my router's IP off of dmz and treated it like a normal dhcp client. All the issues went away. The 5 min disconnects were gone. Of course this wasn't an acceptable solution since I need my router in dmzplus so upnp would work properly. I wanted all traffic just passed through the RG to my router. At least I now narrowed it down to something specific with dmzplus.
- What is happening is dmzplus mode fails on DHCP renewal. For dmzplus to work the ip has to be assigned by dhcp, it is also forced into a 10 minute lease. The dhcp client (your router's wan port) renews at 50% lease time. There is that magical 5 min I was seeing. Apparently the dhcp offer comes from a different IP than what was requested by your router so your router's firewall blocks it. This causes a connection reset and the momentary drop in internet connectivity. You can see this happen like clock work on the ddwrt Status | WAN page where remaining lease time counts down from 10 min until it gets to 5 min and then it is renewed back to 10 min. This is pretty well explained in this thread. The solution is in this thread. On ddwrt go to administration | Commands. Enter:
iptables -I INPUT -p udp --dport 68 -j ACCEPT
Click on "save firewall"
Reboot the router.
That allows all dhcp offers through the firewall. PROBLEM SOLVED. The connection no longer resets and everything works smoothly. I have no idea if this is a dd-wrt specific issue or if it would affect any SPI firewall router. Either way I hope this little nugget of information saves you some time because this was probably the most frustrating network issue I've ever had to solve.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED if you can get uverse with a clean connection. Just watch that installer like a hawk, fix that dmzplus issue, and you are good to go. The pings are fine for gaming. Interleave seemed to have little to no impact. I didn't notice pings being any worse than comcast. Being able to finally stream netflix on my 360 in hd at maximum quality is awesome. I would say it looks as good as atsc. Streaming via air video to iPhone looks significantly better too. Now the bottleneck is att 3G instead of my upstream bandwidth. The connection has been very stable and fast for the two weeks I've had it so far.

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