Configure a TalkTalk Huawei HG-633 as a WiFi Only Router

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TalkTalk recently sent me a new router to replace my aging (failing) Huawei HG-533 box. They replaced it with a Huawei HG-633 ‘Super Router’.

On the plus side, the WiFi performance of the new router is absolutely fantastic – though I do wonder if I should stand close to it; it must be outputting a fairly hefty radio signal!

On the downside, its ability to hold the VDSL broadband connection is woeful, requiring a reset of the VDSL signal every hour or so – unless you enjoy 56k dial-up modem speeds.

TalkTalk refused to replace the new router, instead offering to send an engineer round at my cost despite the fact that I probably know more about this technology than any engineer they’re likely to send round, so I bought my own replacement router – a TP-Link WD-9980 (well, it was actually a WD-8980, but a cheeky wee hack brought it up a model).

As luck would have it, despite the TP-Link router handling the VDSL connection supremely – even managing higher transfer rates than the TalkTalk router when it is not on a go-slow, the WiFi on the TP-Link is not so great. Indeed, that’s maybe an understatement. It really doesn’t cut the mustard compared to the HG-633.

So, I now have a brilliant VDSL router with crap WiFi (though it does have 4xGb ethernet ports), and a crap VDSL router that excels in the speedy WiFi department.

The solution seems obvious: run the TP-Link as a VDSL router, with wired ethernet to the HG-633, acting as a WiFi-only router. The only problem is that TalkTalk dumb down the interface for the HG-633 so much that it makes the configuration process highly unintuitive – there’s no “run as a WiFi router” mode…

I like a challenge though, so I set about the HG-633 to see if I could get it to do what I wanted. This blog is a simple log of what I did in case others find this useful.

I’m assuming that the reader is fairly familiar with networking, and can handle the basic setup of the HG-633 (IP address, WiFi parameters, etc.).

Step 1: Disable the moronic self-help ‘feature’. This is the mechanism (on by default) that intercepts any web requests when you connect to the WiFi router, but it is not connected to the internet via the xDSL port. It’s very annoying, though I’m sure it’s useful for some folks the first time it pops up…

Disable_SelfHelp

Step 2: Disable the ‘Internet_ADSL’ connection. I’m not sure if this is really necessary, but with no xDSL cable connected, there’s not really much point in having the connection ‘enabled’…

Disable_InternetADSL

Step 3: Configure the WiFi router with an appropriate IP address within your network.

Set_IP

Step 4: Set up static routing so that the WiFi router will route any IP packets to your actual router (possibly your working xDSL router)

Configure_StaticRouting

Step 5a: Disable the built in DHCP service. This is only really required if you already have a DHCP server in our network. Fortunately, despite not making things obvious, the HG-633 will relay DHCP broadcast requests, so a WiFi device attached to the HG-633 will still be able to get DHCP service from the server sitting on the ‘other side’ of the HG-633.

Disable_DHCP

Step 5b: Optionally, configure DHCP appropriately. If you do want to use the DHCP service in the HG-633, don’t forget to set up the IP pool appropriately for your network. Don’t forget, if doing this, you’ll need to manually specify the DNS servers to use – otherwise DNS will fail as it tries to use the DNS servers automatically retrieved from the (disabled) xDSL connection. Obvious, really!

Set_DHCP
Step 6: Test! Attach to the WiFi, and check to see if you can do the following:
    • Get an IP address (as provided by the DHCP server!)
    • Ping the HG-633 (this should be a given, but you never know)
    • Ping your network router
    • Ping ‘yahoo.com’ (or your favourite internet host). Note, this performs two tests:
      • DNS resolution – your DHCP server should be providing the correct DNS servers to use
      • IP routing out of your network to the public internet
    • Bring up a web browser and surf
 Step 7: Enjoy!
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