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Vonage degrades Internet Access

Back in August the family moved into a new house, and that meant getting Comcast to run some new cable and Verizon to add two new phone lines. Long story short; Comcast did exactly what they were suppose to do - no muss, no fuss. Verizon, however, drop the ball completely. Shortly thereafter my Vonage equipment arrived.

I had Vonage installed and working in minutes. Some number of days later, though, my Internet service started degrading and then gave up the ghost entirely. I rebooted all of the networking equipment, which brought it all back to life, but a few days later the same thing happened. Then it happened again. At that time a whole bunch of things had changed in my setup. I’d received a new cable modem, I’d replaced my Linksys wifi router with Apple’s Airport Extreme, and I got the Vonage box. What was the culprit? I didn’t nail it down right away, but it was the Vonage box.

You see, the simplistic Vonage installation instructions really encourage you to install the device directly behind your cable modem/dsl line, which I did. Problem is, as I discovered after inordinate amounts of Googling, is that the router built into the Motorola VT1000 VoIP equipment is for the birds, and after a certain amount of usage the internal routing tables get all out of whack. This may be true for other devices that Vonage resells, but I have no way of knowing.

The solution is straight forward enough; arrange to have your Vonage box behind your router. You do have a router don’t you? Even if you only have one computer? Even if you’re not using wifi? If you don’t, click over to Amazon and get yourself one.

Putting your Vonage box behind your router is a simple matter of plugging it into the router as explained here. What those instructions don’t mention is that you will almost certainly have to set up port forwarding, though Vonage does explain how to do that here. And what those instructions don’t tell you is how to give your Vonage box a static IP address. You’ll need to do that too. Instructions can be found here. Of course, the address you use isn’t random, but must be part of the IP range in use on your internal network. Probably something like 192.168.1.xxx. Also note that the final, xxx, octet should not be in range of the addresses handed out by your DHCP server.

The long and the short of it is; if you are using Vonage, then do not let your VoIP equipment (at least the VT1000) also be your router/NAT/firewall/DHCP box. Instead use something better suited to the job like a Linksys, Netgear, or Airport router.

The Good Bit

However, if you are using an Airport Extreme (and maybe others), did you know that you can hook a device up to it, but put it in front of the firewall, thus skipping all the port forwarding stuff? That is, you can put a single device into a mini DMZ. To do this, you’ll have to give the Vonage box a static IP address. Then go to the Airport Admin Utility, select the main Airport tab, click “Base Station Options,” select the “WAN Ethernet Port” tab, and check the “Enable Default Host at” box. The first 3 octets of your internal network will be there, just fill in the final octet with whatever you set for your Vonage box. Now you have the Airport doing all that good NAT/router/DHCP stuff for you, and the Vonage box with a direct connection to the Internet, without port forwarding. You’ll lose any of the packet shaping (call quality) abilities of the VT1000, but we’ve been running this way for months and haven’t noticed anything.

I understand it’s possible to do this the other way round too. That is, to have the VoIP box downstream from the cable modem, and place your router in it’s DMZ. This will resurrect the call quality features of the VT1000. But my configuration seems more natural to me, and my call quality is fine.

If you’re a complete IP neophyte, then most of that didn’t make much sense. Leave a comment and I’ll help you if I can. Otherwise, find yourself a guru and have him/her do it for you.

{ 10 } Comments

  1. Peter K | April 27, 2005 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the info Pete.

    I just ordered Vonage and I’m a little nervous about it messing up my current configuarion. Right now I have the cable wire plugged into a Toshiba Cable modem, and an ethernet wire to my Airport Extreme base station. From there I’m wireless to my iBook G4.

    I have no idea how to give the Vonage box “a static IP address.” Could you point me somewhere that would tell me how to do it?

    Thanks,
    Pete Kelley

  2. Pete | April 27, 2005 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Pete, nothing to be nervous about, none of this is terribly delicate, If you screw up, reset and try again.

    Anyway, it’s simple. Keep everything just like you have it with the cable wire plugged into the cable modem (obviously) and the Ethernet cable plugged into the Airport Extreme. When your Vonage box arrives you will simply plug that into the airport with another Ethernet cable. But first…

    You have to give it a static IP. To do that determine what your internal IP range is by running the Airport Admin Utility. Click on the Network tab, and note what it says there. It’ll most likely be one of: 192168.1.1, 10.0.1.1, or 172.16.1.1. Lets say you’re using the 192 range. In that case you’ll want to set your Vonage box to 192.168.1.xxx, where xxx is some value greater than 200 and less than 256, say 201.

    Now, temprarily connect your Vonage box _directly_ to your Mac, start up your browser, and go to http://192.168.102.1 (it’s this IP address regardless of what your home network is set to). That will bring up the browser based config of the Vonage box. Click on the “Basic” menu option, then fill in the IP address you determined earlier (e.g. 192.168.1.201). For the subnet put in 255.255.255.0, and for the gateway put in the IP address of the Airport Extreme (192.168.1.1). Save your changes.

    Unplug the Vonage box from your Mac, plug it into the Airport, and follow the instructions in this blog entry. The value you’ll enter for Default Host is 201.

    That’s it. Power everything down and back up (Airport first, then Vonage) for good measure, plug in a phone, and see if you have a dial tone.

    Good Luck,
    Pete

  3. peter kelley | May 3, 2005 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Hey Pete,

    Thanks for your advice. I’m at home trying to follow it, but I think that I have another problem: We recently moved and therefore switched cable internet providers. At our new house, after our broadband was activated, we simply plugged in our cable modem and Airport Extreme base station and everything worked perfectly. The problem is that when I try to perform Admin functions on the base station, I get a message that tells me that the Airport Admin Utility cannot communicate [with the base station]. I find this weird because I can still use the internet, get email, etc.

    I hate to burden your blog with my ineptitude, but if you are in a generous mood perhaps you could help set me straight.

    Thanks,
    Pete

  4. Pete | May 3, 2005 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Pete,

    Well, unless you live north of Boston, I don’t think I can help you with this one. But if you want to know what I would do, I’d do this: http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=107451

    Then see if things go back to normal. Might as well reboot your laptop too. Also, not that this is related, when you turn your network back on, order is important:

    Cable modem first
    Airport second
    Vonage third

    Wait for all the lights to calm down on one device before powering on the next.

    Let me know if you get past the Airport issue and have any problems with the Vonage set up.

    Pete

  5. Lou | July 5, 2005 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Hey Pete,
    I have a office for my construction and design company on the top floor of my house. My airport extreme is on the first floor and we get a pretty good signal up here. My question is, would the wireless phone apater work with the Airport Extreme??

    Thanks,
    Lou

  6. Lou | July 5, 2005 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    My last comment was actually vague. What I mean is can I wirelessly connect my vonage phone adapter to my Airport downstairs.

    Thanks again,
    Lou

  7. Maggie | October 17, 2005 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Pete,
    I just bought the vonage system and I have an airport extreme. I see you note above that I can go directly from my cable to my airport but my airport only has one ethernet connection–am I missing something?
    Maggie

  8. Geoff | April 21, 2006 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Pete,
    Great to find your blog. We have had the exact problem, but thought it was caused by Comcast. I have a D-Link DI-604 Router. Will it work? Secondly, the link to Vonage to explain the settings for Static IP comes up with gobbledygook. Is there another explanation of how to do this?

    Finally, we also use Skype. With Vonage, the degradation was occasionally. After adding Skype it happens in a few minutes or a few hours at most. Is this also a problem or just amplifying Vonage modem’s troubles?

    Thanks,
    Geoff

  9. fred | May 24, 2006 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    thanks for a great site.

    can one use only a airport extreme as the vonage box and plug a phone directly into it, or do i need to get another box as well?

  10. Administrator | May 24, 2006 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    - fred

    Let me make sure I understand your question. Are you asking if you can plug a phone directly into an Airport (or any other) router and skip having to acquire a VOIP device out of the loop? If so, then no, a VOIP device is an absolute requirement. But no big deal because Vonage sends you one when you sign up.

    Ordinay routers don’t have VOIP capabilities or indeed a phone jack. So, while you can use the Vonage equipment without a router (though that would be unwise), you can’t use the Vonage service without a (Vonage approved, likely) VOIP device.