Help for new customers, and a first week review of AT&T Uverse.
When AT&T announced that they were bringing Uverse service to my neck of the woods, I found myself checking their availability web page more often than I checked my old rusted mailbox. It was only a matter of time before my dreams of tripled internet speed came true. I’m pretty sure I simultaneously shouted in joy, signed up for service, and possibly peed – just a little. I’m a bit ashamed, but how else can I explain it? For a techie, the anticipation created by “faster internets” is equal to a junkie knowing he is about to triple his supply. It was probably that same geeky-level of anticipation that made AT&T’s gloriously botched install job all the more painful. In typical “too-big-to-function” fashion, it took no more than two “IP-DSL tier 2″ tech-support phone calls, five on-site tech visits, and ten days of waiting before they finally got me up and running. Not exactly smooth transition from DSL, but I was confident that together AT&T and I could thaw that icy start into water under the bridge. All I needed to do was witness my first Uverse-delivered web page.
Of course the first page, was speedtest.net. Because what good is tripling your internet speed if you don’t have a meaningless benchmark to show off to your friends? Yes, let the speed flow!
Oops! I thought I had signed up for 18Mbps service? I know that is the theoretical maximum, but even accounting for any kind of transmission overhead this results are still too slow. Online research into the forums showed that other customers were averaging around 16Mbps on their 18Mbps service. This neat-o graph confirmed that I wasn’t too far from the exchange to get 18Mbps service, so it must be a problem in the billing department. The next move was to log onto AT&T’s customer portal and check my account. Whoops! It looks like billing set me up for 12Mbps. From the same page I simply “purchased” the higher 18Mbps service. Within a few moments, my internet service blipped an my router was re-provisioned for the highest speed. Another speedtest confirmed a 50% increase in speed.
Upgrading my speed was easy and instantly satisfying. In fact, it was a stark contrast to the mishandled install. Finally happy, I did what any good tech does, I settled in and started tinkering with my home network.
AT&T’s current install package only includes a single piece of hardware the Motorola NVG510. It’s a modem/router combo that AT&T refers to as a residential gateway. It comes with yellow stickers on the side giving you all the basic setup information. After messing with a few of the config screens, it’s obvious that Uverse behaves differently from DSL and more closely to your own home network. Most notably, gone are the PPPoE sign in name and password. Instead of providing login info, you are simply assigned static IP and upstream gateway based upon the modem’s MAC. So, unless you get a replacement modem, or AT&T does major VRAD work upstream you are going to retain the same public IP address between power cycles! This is a stark contrast from a DSL modem, which would assign a new IP after the lease ran out or powering the unit down for more than a few minutes. A static IP is a nice bonus. No more having to sign up and configure a dynamic DNS or fork over extra cash each month. Uverse – whether by neccessity or design – is a better solution for those that run a business out of their homes, or those geeks that simply want to consistently access their home network from anywhere in the world.
Speaking of DNS.
Within the first few weeks I noticed some odd issues. The symptoms include having pages half-load with broken images or not load at all. Most of the time these nagging issues were resolved with a page refresh or two, but over time it became increasingly inconvenient. A quick Google search of “DNS Uverse” revealed that others are experiencing the similar problem. AT&T’s standard response is to blame the hardware, and ship customers new kits. It seems a little hush-hush right now, buy my my research shows the culprit is more than likely AT&T’s DNS servers. To see if your unit has similar problems you can either sift through the NVG510’s log for DNS related errors or use Berkeley’s University’s awesome Netalyzer tool. Along with helping to profile the ports on AT&Ts service, Netalyzer helped nail down DNS as the cause of my problems. Unfortunately, unlike every other router I’ve worked on, the NVG510 doesn’t allow you to change the DNS settings it assigns to each device! Of course as opposed to fixing the router, and to quickly alleviate symptoms, you could bounce around to each individual machine on home network and adjust their TCP/IP settings to use alternate DNS servers such as Google’s Public DNS (126.96.36.199 or 188.8.131.52), but this is far from convenient or elegant. In fact not all devices (
iPhones for instance iPhones owner’s see this guide) can define their own DNS servers. I’m not comfortable setting the DNS on every machine, and certainly don’t want incomplete web pages. With the NVG510 refusing to use anything but AT&T’s DNS servers, the solution was simple. It needed to be relieved of its duties. For help fixing your own NVG510 see part 2.