Bell Aliant FibreOP with a DD-WRT Router

This has been a long time coming. To summarize, Bell Aliant’s FibreOP Internet service includes a wireless router that has proprietary, limited firmware. It tends to suffer from latency and WiFi issues. So, I sought to replace it with my own wireless router! I ended up first building an overpowered but very functional pfSense Linux Firewall/Router.

Downstairs

Despite my monstrous UPS, I was not happy with the 1 hour run-time. The whole reason for the pfSense router was that FibreOP “hides” its Internet on a VLAN, which means a standard, consumer router will not be able to access the Internet. And from some forum posts I had read, it seemed DD-WRT was also incapable of it.

Finally, today, I pushed through and realized it takes only 4 simple steps to connect a DD-WRT router directly to the FibreOP modem.

Upstairs AP

Note: If you use Bell Aliant FibreOP Phone or Television service, do NOT do this as this guide does not cover getting those to work. It will render your phone and TV service inoperable!

(Unless of course you are skilled in networking and know how to maintain those services, while simply bypassing the ActionTec for Internet. In that case, you would ignore this warning anyway.)

 

1. DD-WRT Router

There are so many different models of routers capable of running DD-WRT. My router of choice so far has been the D-Link DIR-615. The stock firmware on these is pretty bad, but once you flash DD-WRT on them, they are powerful devices. Generally priced around $30-40, they are not overly expensive. I’ve used/installed over 6 of these, and only one has failed (partially; WiFi failure). I’ve used C, E and I hardware revisions. The DIR-615 I1 has a more powerful, 535MHz CPU (rather than 400MHz).

Installing DD-WRT is worthy of its own article, so this post assumes you already have a DD-WRT router installed, and that you are starting from factory default settings.

 

2. The Setup

The whole idea is to have the router’s WAN (Internet) port communicate on VLAN 35, which is the VLAN FibreOP uses for the Internet. This is how you would do this with DD-WRT:

 

a) MAC Address Cloning

The FibreOP modem will only communicate with the router if it has the same MAC address as the ActionTec router they included.

Click Setup->MAC Address Clone.

Mac Clone

Select Enable, then in the Clone WAN MAC fields, enter the MAC Address written on the label for your ActionTec router.

Click Apply

b) VLAN Tagging

On most routers, the WAN port will be named eth0, and the LAN ports will be bundled as eth1. So, we need to create VLAN 35 on eth0.

Click Setup->Networking.

VLAN Tag

Click Add, select eth0 from the dropdown list, and enter 35 as the Tag Number. Do not change anything else.

Click Apply

 

c) WAN Port Assignment

This is the key to getting it to work. After you Apply the new VLAN settings, a new interface will be created: eth0.35.

WAN Assignment

In the WAN Port Assignment list, select eth0.35 as the new WAN Port. You do not need to change anything else.

Click Apply

 

Conclusion

Now it is easier than ever to free your network and gain more control. Using a low-power DD-WRT router, or a monster pfSense box, you can gain more control over your home network, and completely remove the ActionTec from the equation.

For those who might be interested, I looked into the TX Queue Length value shown in Step c) above, which is essentially a buffer. A larger buffer can result in higher latencies, and significant degradation of performance. The default is 1000, however using some equation offered on another blog, based on the average latency and speed of my connection I calculated that a value of 440 would be better for me. Experiment with these values.

Even with less CPU and memory power available in a small Wireless Router, my connection speed is still just as fast:

3105750664[1]

 

 

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Saturday, November 16th, 2013 computers, networking, software


33 Comments to Bell Aliant FibreOP with a DD-WRT Router

  • Reggie says:

    quick note, your Fibreop home phone will be fine, since it is connected to the ONT, it gets handled before anything gets to your router.
    Based on your screenshots, you could add TV too, as long as it is connected via Cat5 and not HPNA. Just need to add the correct vlan (34 with prio of 4, and not tagged on the port with the TV connected).

  • Julius says:

    I have to give you a big thumbs up for this blog post. I flashed my Netgear WNDR3700 with DD-WRT and it worked flawlessly.

    The only thing that took longer was I was VLAN tagging eth0 instead of eth1 which is the WAN interface on the Netgear WNDR3700.

    I also had to RELEASE the IP LEASE on the Actiontec prior to plugging in the WAN cable from the Fiber ONT. Once the “INTERNET” LED on the ACTIONTEC goes out, swap the WAN cable over to the other router and it will grab a new IP just fine.

    Thanks again for taking the time to write this!

    • Dan says:

      Yes, some routers do use different interface names, but you certainly seem familiar enough with networking by figuring it out.

      Releasing the lease on the actiontec is not mandatory. I actually power cycled the ONT, allowing it to fully sync before connecting the DDWRT router. Of course, this was because my actiontec was already disconnected.

      I’m glad you became another liberated FibreOP user!

  • Mike P says:

    I attempted your solution with my Cisco E3200 to no avail. I noticed on my VLAN tab I only have VLANs 1-15? Do you see the same with the NetGear?

  • Mike P says:

    It also looks like my WAN port is vlan2. Does that make sense?

    • Dan says:

      Cisco/Linksys firmwares seem to handle VLANs rather differently. There is an entire tab for VLANs, and by default the LAN ports are in VLAN0, and the WAN is in VLAN1 (and 2 it seems?) The D-Link firmware does not have a VLAN tab.

      I experimented with my WRT54G, but have not yet got it working. Internet in my home is business-critical, so I have limited time to be able to test it. As with everything DD-WRT, there should be a way of getting it working. The question is always how much headache will it take to reach success.

      • Mike P says:

        Just thought I’d give an update. It would have been sooner but I ended up putting a bad version of dd-wrt on my router which caused a somewhat bricked state. After a quick solder job, a serial connector, and a putty session it was revived. Afterwards I looked at setting up the VLAN 35, but unfortunately this is not available with ddwrt on my Linksys E3200 router. From what I understand dd-wrt still doesn’t use firmware for the latest chips on the new linksys routers. That said, tomato shibby does! I was able to create virtual VLANs using a VID offset function and replaced my actiontec successfully (brucy.net has a good write up on this)

        I just received the FibreOP TV service on Monday, but something tells me I won’t be able to get that going. 3 TVs use the coax connection from the actiontec and I don’t believe shibby supports 801.2p tagging on VLAN 34 for priority.

        Thoughts?

        • Dan says:

          Thanks for sharing your investigation here. Glad to hear Tomato can at least handle Internet.

          I spent a lot of time researching, and had a few ideas written up before finding this:

          http://digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?t=134496&page=10

          Starting at Post #138, it seems like simplicity wins: connect a gigabit switch to the ONT, configure the Actiontec as described, and connect both the Actiontec and the Linksys to the switch.

          —————–

          My ideas before this boiled down to:

          a) use a hub (as opposed to a switch, since I worried the switch would get confused about cloned MACs on different ports)

          b) buy an Ethernet->HPNA adapter like others are doing, to remove the need for priority 4 tag

          c) pfSense with 3 NICs

          ——————-

          Hopefully some of this gives you some ideas to try out.

        • Honza says:

          I couldn’t get my WRT54G to work using the dd-wrt method above. Tomato shibby however works great. You need to set the VID offset to 32 (must be multiples of 16) and then create a VLAN so that its VID is 35 (you might need to create a few until you fit 35, they’re sequential).

          Also, check that your ports are assigned properly. Tomato has a screen where it shows which port is which. At first I had my WAN cable in the wrong place.

          I cloned the MAC, created a VLAN 35 and assigned it to WAN. It was a very frustrating experience but I’m overjoyed to have it finally working. 🙂

  • John says:

    Thank you for your guide, i followed your steps, but i seem to be having some sort of issue. the DD-WRT router seems to be getting a IP from bell but im still not able to connect to the internet. Any ideas why this would happen, and/or how do i go about fixing it.

    • Dan says:

      If you’re certain the config is correct, try a full power cycle. Power off the router and the modem. Then, turn the modem on and allow it to synchronize with the network. Once it is fully powered up, boot the router.

      Two questions: which model router do you have, and did you start from factory defaults?

      • John says:

        I’m using the D-link DIR-615 that you recommended, and i did try resetting the device and starting over to no avail.

        Its very strange as the router gets a IP address from bell after a few minutes but no internet. as soon as i plug the actiontec in and it gets its IP its up and running.

        Not sure if im missing something in the basic set up of the router or maybe i should try and re-flashing the router and see if that helps. I’ll try and do what you mention and post if i get anywhere.

        • Dan says:

          If at all helpful, here are the detailed specs of my config:

          DIR-615 rev. E3
          DD-WRT Build 21061

          I also previously used a DIR-615 rev. I1, with a 23xxx build, and it worked just the same.

          The rev. I1 routers are unfortunately very hit and miss (mostly miss). Recently I did an install for a client requiring multiple DD-WRT access points. I selected three rev. I1s, and all three were plagued by WiFi drops and full system resets, using stock and DD-WRT firmwares. I suspected noisy power supplies, but even with high current, quality power supplies they still suffered resetting when under load (heavy downloading, streaming, heck even sending music to an Apple TV killed it.) The good old rev. C and E routers were the best.

          • John says:

            Replaced router successfully, one that may have been causing me troubles, and it maybe that im new to DD-WRT is that when i made a settings change i would need to power down the router before it started to work again. kind of weird but again thanks for your guide and help.

          • Dan says:

            Oh good, I’m glad to hear you finally got it going. Strange you needed to power cycle it. I hope you fare well with DD-WRT, let me know if you need any help.

            Cheers,
            Dan

  • Joseph says:

    Any idea on how to get this to work on a ea6700 with ddwrt, i added a tag to vlan2 since that seems to be where the wan port sits copied my action tec mac and changed my wan port to vlan2.35 but still no ip. Tried power cycling the ONT and releasing the ip from the actiontec and still nothing?

  • Jason says:

    Hey there and thanks for the initial messing around with this!

    I have just bought a new TP-Link TL-WDR3600 dual band router and installed DD-WRT on it. The router works fine in default settings when connected to the Actiontec via one of the LAN ports, however…

    When I followed your instructions, no such luck. I noticed that the default settings of the router make the WAN port be VLAN2 so I tried setting that to tag 35 and then set the WAN port to the VLAN2.35 but that did not work.

    I REALLY want to ditch this freaking Actiontec so if you have any ideas, let me know. I have tried power cycling things just to be sure but it still did not work.

    Thanks!
    Jason.

    • Dan says:

      Hi Jason, nice choice of router! TP-Link is really bringing out some great hardware.

      As Mike and Joseph commented here previously, it seems that certain routers handle VLANs differently. Specifically, it seems that Cisco/Linksys, and now also TP-Link, routers have a default VLAN2 created for the WAN, and it seems to be causing issues with setting VLAN 35 as the WAN source. You should notice you have a dedicated VLAN tab in DD-WRT. The D-Link routers I’ve used do not have this tab anywhere.

      I only have one old, unstable Linksys WRT54G, and experimentation is difficult since my network requires constant uptime during the day for work. I just haven’t been able to find a time where I can take the Internet down for an hour to play around with settings.

      The little experimentation I did perform, I attempted to clear out all VLAN assignments and make them myself. However, I felt as though the VLAN tab treated things differently than VLAN tagging (this is just an unsubstantiated feeling.) I wasn’t able to get it to work that time though.

      I’m wondering if the difference in the way VLANs are handled is hardware or firmware dependent. I am using build 21061 on my router, if that serves as any kind of reference for you. I know you’re not alone with this specific issue, and I hope that an answer can be found!

      Dan

      • Jason says:

        Well, I do not have the VLAN tab on this router 🙁

        And I tried a bunch again before calling it a night and still nothing.

        I fear I will have to put the Craptiontec in full bridged mode and use it that way for the time being…

      • Jason says:

        Well bad news…

        I tried flashing openWRT and there is just simply on VLAN support on this router…

        I will still keep this thing as the price and the performance with DD-WRT will be good none the less.

        Time to rejigger things with the ActionTec still in use… But only as a bridge…

  • Jason says:

    Hey there again!

    Just wanted to let you know I found a used DIR-615 and flashed it to DD and now have no more ActionTec router in my setup!!!

    So much more stable and lower ping times too.

    I kept the TPLink router I bought and moved it upstairs to do all the wifi for upstairs and the DLink is now covering the basement.

    All is well in my DD and WiFi world now 🙂

    • Dan says:

      Excellent! I’m really glad you could get it all working, and free yourself of that high-latency ActionTec.

      Which revision DIR-615 did you end up finding? I’ve found the C1 and E3 revisions to be very good; the new rev I1 models, as I’ve mentioned before, cut a lot of corners and just aren’t stable. Any loading seems to result in resets. I’m thinking poor power supply design internally.

      My DIR-615 had 78 days of uptime when she locked up a few weeks ago – not bad at all, and much better than the bi-weekly reboots I used to do with my pfSense box. All the best with your network!

      And for fun, see how the 100mbps Ethernet handles full loading: Speedtest

      • Jason says:

        I got a B something IIRC. It is now up stable for over 4 weeks now.

        It is a little weird with WiFi changes though. Every time when I was setting it up, if I changed a WiFi setting, it would lose its mind and I would have to pull the power. but after powering back up, it would be totally fine and the settings I set would have taken. Strange but where it is a rock otherwise, not a big deal.

        I just really wish that the TP-Link would have worked for the vlan thing. But oh well! It still has a job in all of it!

        • Dan says:

          Oh good, the older revs were certainly more stable. As for changing WiFi settings, I did notice that with DDWRT it seems to do a half-reset whenever you make changes to WiFi settings. After about 10-15 seconds all is good again for me, maybe your revision behaves slightly differently. 4 weeks is hard to argue with though, and how often do you change ssids/keys anyway? 😛

          I may be looking at upgrading to full gigabit WAN, to potentially handle the 175mbps package. It sadly won’t be as cheap as these DIR-615s, but I will be sure to post my results.

  • Jason says:

    We are getting the TV service today and for the setup, I am just going to hook the Actiontec back up long enough for the Aliant guy to do his thing and then pull it out.

    Afterwards though, it it just as simple as adding another VLAN for tag 34 and priority 4? Do I need to do anything to the WAN port assignment section?

    I really don’t care if I get it working as I only got the TV service so I could lock in my pricing for 3 years. But if I can get it going on DD-WRT, that would be nice.

    • Dan says:

      I’m assuming you have the receivers with the Ethernet hookup, and aren’t using the Actiontec HPNA coax? Here is my understanding of it:

      ONT outputs both VLANs on same Ethernet
      -> VLAN 35
      -> VLAN 34 / p4

      DD-WRT router takes only VLAN 35 and assigns it as WAN interface
      -> VLAN 35 / eth0.35 = WAN

      Actiontec normally does this:
      -> VLAN 35 = WAN
      -> VLAN 34 / p4 = HPNA coax (and bridges it into LAN for Ethernet receivers?)

      If you are using the Ethernet-based set-top boxes, you might be able to get away with adding VLAN 34/p4, then bridging it to your LAN interface (br0 on the DIR-615). I wish I could test this myself, but we don’t have it. I’d say backup your config, experiment, and restore if it goes wrong. Let me know how it goes!

      • Jason says:

        Just adding the bridges did not work but it gave me a few ideas so I will tinker and see. If I beat it, I will reply back with the info so it is easy for people to know how to do it on DD-WRT.

  • Ray says:

    Not sure if I’ll get a response but…

    I followed the set up but couldn’t get it to work.

    I flashed dd-wrt on my Netgear WRND3700v4

    I tag etho0 to 35 and assigned WAN port.

    Cloned MAC address of my Bell router.

    Used PPPoE login for Bell.

    I don’t know what I’m doing wrong but any help or suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Dan says:

      Last step is the problem – “Used PPPoE login for Bell”

      This tutorial is for setting up FibreOP – PPPoE is not used with FibreOP, though it is used for DSL. However, DSL internet (generally) does not use VLANs at all.

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