Saturday, November 29, 2008

A little broadband journey downunder with a ST585v6

As anyone who has suffered the sad joke that Australian Broadband situation will attest, it's sucks. Unlike most other 1st world countries, in Australia you buy a connection which has a certain allocation of bandwidth per month. Depending on your ISP they will count uploads and downloads which sucks even more, the better ISP's then cap your connection at something pathetic like 64k, rather than starting to gorge their customers by charging excessive amounts for anything over your quota.

Sounds like trying to achieve something in a corrupt third world country?

I have been using Optus Cable for a couple of years now, because I didn't want to pay the Telstra Tax ($30 AUD per month) for a phone connection which I would never use. Optus changed their plans recently to include uploads in your quota, which really sucks. You can stay on the old plans but they are limited to 20Gb, that's it.

The plans with the uploads included are still limited to 30Gb, no really much of an improvement in the end.

What's even worse with Optus, apart from waiting on hold for support (or sales which only does limited hours) is that there is absolutely no free content or mirrors, even their old sourceforge mirror wasn't free.

Now recently I hit my cap two thirds of the way through the month and I was stuck, I couldn't upgrade my plan or anything. So I got extremely pissed off and decided to bite the bullet and get iiNet Naked DSL.

For $10 less a month, I could get ADSL2, 30Gb peak and 30Gb off peak, heaps of free unmetered content and a free VOIP service with free national and local calls.

So far so good, except my old phone line was no longer connected and had to be reconnected for a $300 Telstra tax. Extortion, sure a technician came out to my place, but all they are doing is plugging some cables at the exchange. Grrr....

The kicker is, you can't tell how good the line is until it's connected so it's a gamble to see if your going to get a decent line speed.

So I gambled and when it got connected on Thursday, much do my annoyance, my modem was getting only 1.5Mb which ain't very fast at all.

Here's my results from the Facebook | Broadband Speed Challenge

Basically, Optus speed was all over the place, but I was getting 9Mbs last time I tried it with only about 25k upload speeds. Then in the middle, you can see the really low speed I was getting with iiNet ADSL to start with.

But then it gets better :)

The modem I am using is a Thompson Speedtouch ST585v6 which my dad got for free when he signed up for his AAPT broadband, he wasn't using it because I had already setup a D-LINK router for him.

This modem was running a really old firmware, so I googled around and found this version international being recommended on whirlpool in this thread about the ST585v6.

Reading this thread I saw that there was speed gains to be had, simply from upgrading the firmware!

A couple of hints when upgrading using the SpeedTouch upgrade wizard,

  1. Make sure your using a cabled connection not a wireless one.
  2. Change your connection config from being dynamic to be statically configured, otherwise I found the upgrade would fail while it tried to do DHCP each time the modem restarted during the upgrade.
The net result? As you can see in the graph I went up to a 4Mbs connection with the new firmware :) Whilst it's not fantastic, I am now happy with my iiNet Naked DSL.

My upstream went from 30k to 90k with this upgrade which is very useful.

iiNet also have a great feature with their phone support, if you wait more than 5 minutes you can leave your number and they will call you back when your place in the queue comes up.

Firmware upgrades are risky, so your doing it at your own risk!

Please don't ask tech support questions on my blog about doing this, use whirlpool, but if you have a success story, please share it :)

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