Getting G.fast in my area was kind of a bad news – no plans for FTTP any time soon. However, it provided a choice that before did not really exist as Virgin Media surely knows how to milk their loyal customers/hostages.
- Virgin Media’s higher download throughput lower upload throughput higher latency DOCSIS 3 – with abysmal latency sometimes which affects near realtime communication due to the crappy Intel Puma 6 in their hubs or the usual cable high latency.
- Opeanreach’s lower download throughput higher upload throughput lower latency G.fast – essentially glorified VDSL2 which is very sensitive to the phone line length. Basically BT, but with a different name because reasons, but still a fully owned subsidiary.
Yup, this is the sorry state of decade-behind-the-times broadband infrastructure in the UK for the people who don’t live in the upper 10% of places with FTTP.
My G.fast plan from EE came with a VDSL2 router/modem (EE Smart Hub), so, fortunately, Openreach provided a Huawei MT992 G.fast modem. They call this a managed installation as the modem is supported my Openreach. Unlike the parent company, BT, EE still offer the older Smart Hub which doesn’t have G.fast support. That’s not the case with BT’s Smart Hub 2. To add insult to the injury, the vast majority of these CPE’s on Openreach’s network don’t support bridge (aka modem mode) like Virgin’s SuperHub does. This is one of the bits that Virgin is doing right.
This ISP assumption that all of their customers are simpletons is rather disturbing. To be clear, this isn’t Openreach’s fault, but the standard MO for most of the ISP’s using their network. So, getting an MT992 with my installation was a blessing as the market is sorely missing enough options for G.fast modems. You do get the odd MT992 listing on eBay for £300, but that price is clearly a pipe dream.
Using double NAT with the Smart Hub and my proper Edgerouter always felt wrong. It is wrong. For those with Smart Hub 2 this is the only solution until some company, like Draytek, steps up to the game with Vigor 166 and I expect acceptable prices. That doesn’t mean cheap – it just means significantly less than £300 on eBay.
To circle back to configuration, both the EE documentation and their support engineer were wrong. Phoned for an unrelated problem, but the possibility of using my own device in place of their CPE came up. They said that the communication between the MT992 modem and their Smart Hub uses a proprietary protocol – something which I did not buy.
Armed with the PPPoE credentials determined by reading their documentation (that bit is accurate), got the PPPoE up and running on my Edgerouter straight away. That’s Add Interface > Add PPPoE from the router homepage, but I have used their recommended 1492 MTU.
However, it didn’t take long to figure out that something is wrong – some websites were loading, but some were not. This kind of red herring made it more difficult to pinpoint the source of the problem, until I somehow remembered that QUIC is a thing and that some websites are using it. So, I have reliably determined that UDP based protocols (like DNS and QUIC) were fine, whereas anything TCP based was getting blackholed.
Cue the classic Path MTU Discovery problem because someone somewhere decided that ICMP is too much of a risk. You got to love the security theatre.
The first step was to enable the TCP MSS clamping. This immediately solved the TCP blackholing issues and it proved that indeed the MTU for the PPPoE interface is wrong. Can’t remember the actual value and I don’t want to. PPPoE is horrible enough that I don’t want to take a second performance hit if the TCP MSS clamping can be avoided.
Turns out – it can be avoided. I have been reading on the PlusNet forums (also a BT subsidiary) that the Openreach network supports baby jumbo frames with the right hardware. Turns out, that’s the case with Huawei MT992.
I have immediately tried this:
- Disable TCP MSS clamping.
- Set the PPPoE interface (pppoe0) MTU to the full 1500.
- Set the eth0 interface MTU to 1508. This is configured as WAN 1 on my router and it connects straight into the MT992 modem. It is the parent interface for the pppoe0 interface.
That’s it. No MSS clamping and no TCP blackholing issues either. There’s certainly no proprietary protocol either as the Edgerouter has been working for months and I have not observed any loss of performance compared to the EE Smart Hub.