Unofficial TalkTalk Broadband Setup Guide

by Phil Jones

Praise for this article. Nov 2013

A reader calling himself 'Matt' sent me this:
I spent some time working in ADSL tech support for a small ISP (not my finest hour) and have likewise done some freelance computer fixing myself, and your article is excellent -- it goes into technical details without swamping a user and provides helpful pictures throughout. I rather suspect TalkTalk support will be using it, as I know damn well I raided similar material to give to first-line support staff.

Update! April 2012

This article is about using the MT882 router/modem distributed by TalkTalk in the "Broadband Start Up Pack" until at least November 2008. Since I wrote this article, it seems TalkTalk have greatly improved the time it takes to queue on the phone to speak to the helpline. TalkTalk have changed the router/modem they're supplying, and in some cases they have started offering the BT Infinity-based higher speed broadband service. Having said all that, the article is still a useful guide so I am leaving it here.

Introduction

Phil JonesHi, I am Phil Jones. Have you subscribed to TalkTalk Broadband? Have you received the "Let's get plugged in" TalkTalk Broadband Start Up Pack? Are you having trouble getting it to work for the first time? Are you using someone else's Internet connection in an attempt to find some help, and then come across this page?

It appears that TalkTalk's customer service leaves, ahem, something to be desired. I am a freelance computer fixer for home users. I install broadbrand for a living. I am not associated with any particular broadband supplier. I am nothing to do with TalkTalk, but I have set up broadband for many people, sometimes using TalkTalk Broadband. I will tell you how to do it yourself, without the need to call TalkTalk's helpline as far as possible. If there is anything I could explain clearer please let me know, contact form below.


All broadband Internet Service Providers that use a conventional phone line (eg Demon, BT Internet, Nildram, Madasafish, etc) work in the same way as TalkTalk. So if you are using another ISP, you might still find this article useful as an example.

Caution

Paul King wrote pointing out that the TalkTalk supplied equipment could be unsuitable if you have young children. The mains adapter could potentially come apart while plugged in to a live electrical socket, leaving, in Paul's words: "live terminals 'semi-hidden', but if you've got kids, epescially real younguns, they'll find a way of poking something in... that's why sockets have a guard in them that's moved by the earth pin on a plug... i remember as a 4 y/o (35 years ago) poking a wire into a socket & switching it on & blowing the main fuse (I was lucky!) All UK coins, except a £1 coin, will fit in the grooves & make contact with the terminals on the plug part of the split adapter... kids love playing with coins & putting them into 'slots'".

Most common faults

Make sure you:
Below I have done my best to describe, step-by-step, how to use the TalkTalk Broadband Start Up Pack. Read on and I hope it will help.

What you need

Stop! Put down that "Connect & Go" CD! Fortunately, you do not need to use it. If you do use it, well, it shouldn't cause any real harm, but all it does is burden the computer with extra software that doesn't have to be there. Also, if the helpline doesn't help or doesn't answer, as I believe can be the case, then you have to do it yourself. Follow my procedure to do it manually, checking as we go along, and hopefully learning something useful along the way. You do not need the USB cable, the CD or the instruction sheet that comes in the "Broadband Start Up Pack" box. The "minimum PC specification" only applies to the use of the "Connect & Go" CD; if the CD is not used, then you can safely ignore the stated minimum specification. You do need:
  1. BT or TalkTalk telephone line rental.
  2. NTE5 BT Master SocketAn NTE5 Master Socket. The Master Socket is the point where the telephone line comes into the house. The Master Socket remains BT or TalkTalk property, depending upon whoever sends you a bill for line rental. There are two sorts of Master Socket.  The modern NTE5 type is best. Behind the User Removable Panel there is another socket called the Test Socket. The Test Socket disconnects everything inside the house and connects directly to the outside line. The Test Socket is tremendously useful for troubleshooting. The old style lacks the Fixed Front and the Test Socket. The old style should work but is not recommended. If you have the old style Master Socket, the telephone company will change it for the NTE5 but this service now costs over £100. An independent telephone engineer should charge less than this.
  3. TalkTalk broadband activated on the telephone line. The date when you should be able to use the broadband service for the first time is called the Commencement Date.
  4. The TalkTalk Broadband Start Up Pack.
  5. Any computer with an Ethernet socket. Here I illustrate using a Windows XP based PC with Internet Explorer 7. Any operating system can be used that supports Ethernet, such as Windows 98, Windows Vista, Windows 2000, Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux, BSD, Amiga OS, etc.
  6. Any web browser program. Given Windows, the version of Internet Explorer is not important, so it does not matter whether you have Internet Explorer 6 or Internet Explorer 7. Alternative web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla SeaMonkey, Opera, Safari and Konqueror also work.
If you don't have items 1 and 2 more than 28 days from the end of the month you were given in TalkTalk's online "Availability Checker", then you are allowed to cancel all of your TalkTalk services completely at no charge. Refer to Section 11.13 of your TalkTalk contract.

Overview: How it works

This is best explained with a diagram.

Diagram
Let's look through this diagram, reading from left to right.

Step one: ADSL synchronisation

Do this when you have been told that your broadband service is ready to use. This step does not require a computer.

For the line which has been broadband enabled, unplug every analogue telephone device (phone handset, fax machine, dial-up modem, Sky Television Digital Box) from the phone wall sockets. Remember to unplug Sky Television Digital Box, if you have one, because the digital box counts as a telephone handset.
  1. Plug the UK wall socket adapter into the power adapter.
  2. Plug the power adapter into the electricity wall socket.
  3. Plug the SmartAX MT882 into the power adapter.
  4. Plug the RJ-11 cable into the ADSL socket on the MT882.
  5. Plug the other end of the RJ-11 cable into the ADSL socket on the microfilter.
  6. Plug the microfilter into the Master Socket.
  7. Turn on the MT882 using the power button on the back at the left side.
All the lights on the MT882 will light briefly. This checks that they work. For the next 15 seconds, the LAN and USB lights will be lit. Then they will go out and you will be left with the Power light only. Now wait another 30 seconds. The LINK light should then start flashing quickly for about 3 seconds, then go steady green. Hurrah! You have ADSL synchronisation. If it fails to remain steady, or never starts flashing, then boo, we must find out what is wrong. If the light comes on briefly green and then starts flashing again, this is called retrying. Let it try again, it may need two or three attempts before the light goes green and stays on.

The LINK light must be on and steady before Internet access will work. If it does not go steady, remove the panel from the front of the NTE5 Master Socket. Inside you will find another socket, this is the Test Socket. Plug the microfilter into the Test Socket. The purpose of the Test Socket is to bypass everything inside the house and connect directly to the outside line. If it still doesn't go steady, read on to find out what to do.

Step two: From the computer to the MT882

The items you need are:
  1. Ethernet cable.
  2. Ethernet socket on your computer.
All new PCs and Apple Macs have an Ethernet socket built in. If your computer doesn't have an Ethernet socket, no problem, you just need to have one put in. For desktop PCs, you need a "10/100 PCI Ethernet Card" which you can find in electronics and computer shops for £15 or less. For laptops, you need a "10/100 PCMCIA Ethernet Card" which costs under £30 usually. It is also possible to get a USB Ethernet Adapter (USB stands for Universal Serial Bus) which works in both desktop and laptop PCs. To install the Ethernet card, follow the instructions that come with the product, if unsure, ask someone to do it for you.

Plug the Ethernet cable into the Ethernet socket on the back of the MT882. Plug the Ethernet cable into the Ethernet socket on your computer. The LAN light on the MT882 should come on, and a corresponding light next to the Ethernet socket on the computer should also come on. This is called the physical link. With some computers, the LAN light comes on before you turn the computer on.

Turn the computer on now. With some computers, the LAN light comes on while the computer starts up. Be sure the LAN light is on, then continue to the next step.

Local Area Network TCP/IP configuration

The settings are:
The good news is that the above are the default settings in most computers. Provided the network card is correctly installed, you don't usually have to change anything. How you set these values depends upon the operating system. We will look at Windows NT/2000/XP, Windows 98 and Mac.

Windows NT/2000/XP

  1. Click Control Panel, Network, Local Area Connection, make sure Local Area Connection is enabled, then right-click on Local Area Connection, click Properties, Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), "Obtain an IP address automatically" and "Obtain DNS server addresses automatically", OK, OK again.
  2. Click Start menu, then Click Run.
  3. Type cmd and click OK.

    Run dialog

  4. At the prompt type ipconfig /all and press Enter on the keyboard.
  5. You should be rewarded with data similar to that below.
    Windows IP Configuration

    Host Name . . . . . . . . . . . . : my-pc
    Primary Dns Suffix . . . . . . . :
    Node Type . . . . . . . . . . . . : Unknown
    IP Routing Enabled. . . . . . . . : No
    WINS Proxy Enabled. . . . . . . . : No

    Ethernet adapter Local Area Connection:

    Connection-specific DNS Suffix . :
    Description . . . . . . . . . . . : ASUSTeK/Broadcom 440x 10/100 Integrated Controller
    Physical Address. . . . . . . . . : 00-E0-18-B3-A0-F7
    Dhcp Enabled. . . . . . . . . . . : Yes
    Autoconfiguration Enabled . . . . : Yes
    IP Address. . . . . . . . . . . . : 192.168.1.3
    Subnet Mask . . . . . . . . . . . : 255.255.255.0
    Default Gateway . . . . . . . . . : 192.168.1.1
    DHCP Server . . . . . . . . . . . : 192.168.1.1
    DNS Servers . . . . . . . . . . . : 192.168.1.1
    Lease Obtained. . . . . . . . . . : 27 February 2007 10:54:43
    Lease Expires . . . . . . . . . . : 02 March 2007 10:54:43

Windows 98

  1. Click Start menu, Settings, Control Panel, Network.
  2. Click the entry that says "TCP/IP" followed by the name of the network card eg "TCP/IP > Asustek Broadcom 440x", then Properties.
  3. On the IP Address tab, make sure "Obtain an IP address automatically" is selected, then click OK.
  4. Click Start menu, then click Run.
  5. Type winipcfg and click OK.
  6. Click the drop-down box and change "PPP Adapter" to the name of the computer's Local Area Network adapter, in the example above it's AsusTek Broadband 440x, below it's Intel PRO Adapter.
  7. The IP Address and other fields should be filled in. If not, click Release, then Renew and the computer will try again to get an IP address from the MT882.

    Windows 98 IP configuration utility

Mac OS X

  1. In System Preferences choose Network.
  2. Set Built-In Ethernet TCP/IP to Configure: Using DHCP.
  3. The IP Address should change to reflect the address given to the computer by the MT882, eg 192.168.1.3.

    Mac OS X Network control panel

Mac OS 9

  1. Use the TCP/IP control panel.
  2. Set Connect via: to "Ethernet built-in".
  3. Set Configure: to "Using DHCP Server".

Testing

Now it's time to make sure that it works. This is done using the "ping" utility which means "are you there?" Note that no Internet connection is needed to carry out the following four steps. The following four steps test communication across the Local Area Network only.
  1. On Windows NT/2000/XP, click Start menu, type cmd and click OK. On Windows 98, click Start menu, type command and click OK. On Mac OS X, choose Macintosh HD, Applications, Utilities, Terminal. Mac OS 9 doesn't have a built-in ping utility so skip this step.
  2. Start by pinging yourself. Type ping 127.0.0.1 and press Enter. 127.0.0.1 is called the Local Loopback address. Every computer on the Internet has this Local Loopback address, and it allows the computer to communicate with itself via TCP/IP (Transfer Control Protocol / Internetworking Protocol). Replies here means the computer's TCP/IP function is working. That is a good sign because TCP/IP is required to access the Internet.
  3. Next, ping the Client IP of the computer's own Ethernet network card. This verifies that the computer's internal network adapter can access itself on the Local Area Network. Type ping 192.168.1.X where X is the last octet of the Ethernet Adapter Local Area Connection IP address given above, for example, 3. Therefore, for example, type ping 192.168.1.3, then press Enter on the keyboard. If you have Windows XP and you get "PING: transmit failed, error code 5", download and run Winsock XP Fix which worked for me.
  4. Next, ping the Default Gateway address, which is the IP address of the MT882 on the Local Area Network. Type ping 192.168.1.1 and press Enter on the keyboard. Now you should have:

    Ping default gateway

    You should see the LAN light on the MT882 flash in response. Success means the basic communication from the computer to the MT882 is working.

Other Local Area Network settings (Windows)

Type control inetcpl.cpl and press Enter on the keyboard. Click the Connections tab. You don't need anything in "Dial-up and Virtual Private Network settings". If you do have something in there, choose "Never dial a connection". Click LAN settings, turn all the options off, click OK, then click OK again to close the Internet Options control panel.

Internet Options control panel

Step three: ADSL status

The next step is to use the MT882's status page to double-check your ADSL synchronisation. If the LINK light is on and steady then that is an excellent start. If not, the status page will help explain why, and you need to do this before you phone TalkTalk for further help.

Start your computer's web browser. On the Address line or Location bar, enter the Default Gateway address you pinged earlier, 192.168.1.1. This should take you to the MT882's administration page. You should be asked for an administration username and password. Enter username admin and password admin. Note that this username and password is set by the manufacturer of the MT882, not TalkTalk. The administration username and password is only for controlling the MT882. It is not to be confused with the username and password to log in to your TalkTalk Internet account; that comes later. Click OK.

Router/modem admin login

On the left side click Status, then System Information. On this page are very, very important figures.

System information


ADSL Status

ADSL Status should be Showtime/Data. That means the link to the telephone exchange is up and running (but does not mean you have Internet access because that comes later).

Data Path and Standard

There are various different sorts of ADSL.

Bandwidth

The Bandwidth Down/Up (kbps) value again refers to the link between the MT882 and the telephone exchange. It's not about the connection to TalkTalk, that is a different thing. Note that the bandwidth figure does not refer to data actually sent or received. Nothing has been sent or received yet. The bandwidth value simply represents how fast it would work, if there were any data to send or receive. The bandwidth value must be more than 0/0. The example value shown 1152/288 means 1152 kilobits per second incoming (download) and 288 kilobits outgoing (upload). The MT882 can do at least 8 megabit broadband, possibly more. The actual bandwidth values that you get depend upon various factors such as distance to the exchange, the capability of the exchange, and the package you are paying for.

Bandwith is bits, not bytes

Communication speeds are measured in bits per second. File sizes are measured in bytes. You must divide bits per second by 8 to get bytes per second. 1152 kilobits per second is equal to 144 kilobytes (KB) per second. Example: You have a 1 megabyte (MB) file to download. 1 megabit broadband will take 8 seconds to download it - in theory. In practice it will take longer because of all the other factors such as network conditions elsewhere.

Download is faster than upload

The receiving speed is faster than the sending. This is because of the typical web browsing pattern: send a little bit of data (can I have a web page please); receive a lot (here you are). Broadband packages are usually sold on the download speed only. If your broadband is upgraded you will often find that the upload speed remains the same.

Bandwidth is miserably low?

Unexpectedly low bandwidth figures can be caused by trying to put the MT882 on the end of a telephone extension. Move the MT882 to the Master Socket, preferably NTE5. Use a short RJ-11 cable and one microfilter only, then try again.

Upload is poor?

Check the status figures after the slash. Remember, all the status figures after the slash mean to the Internet.

SNR Margin

Now look at the crucial SNR Margin Down/Up figure. The scale of SNR Margin is:
20 or more - excellent
12 - good
9 - the least that I like to see
6 - the minimum for anything to happen at all
5.5 - definitely trouble
The first figure is the more important. For example, if it says 8/11 the 8 is the important value because that is downstream (receiving data). What is SNR Margin? It is a measure of the clarity of the telephone exchange. You can't hear the broadband signal from the telephone exchange on your telephone handset, but the MT882 can. The higher the bandwidth, the lower the SNR Margin. The more noise on the line, the lower the SNR Margin. Too high a bandwidth or too much noise causes the SNR Margin to fall into the trouble zone and you get all kinds of unpredictable problems. You must either get rid of the noise or ask TalkTalk to reduce the bandwidth.

The SNR Margin Down figure is always lower than the Up. This is normal. It is because ADSL is optimised for receiving, not sending. Remember there is a tradeoff, more bandwidth comes at the cost of lower SNR.

Low SNR?

Cause: There is too much noise on the line or the broadband speed is too high.

Fix 1: Try to isolate the noise. Unplug all your phones, plug the microfilter into the Test Socket inside the NTE5 Master Socket, change the microfilter, change the RJ-11 cable, use a short RJ-11 cable not a long one, remove extension leads between the MT882 and the Master Socket. If the problem persists, it could be caused by a faulty line, for example, from the telephone pole to your house. If you don't have the NTE5 Master Socket then you need it, to tell if the noise is coming from something inside the house (your problem) or outside (phone company's problem).

Fix 2: You may be on the wrong broadband package. Your line may not support the broadband speed that has been set by TalkTalk. For example, one of my customers had 2 megabit broadband from Nildram ISP. The performance was abysmal (SNR around 4.5, frequent loss of ADSL sync, download speed like dial-up). I wrote a postal letter to Nildram requesting a downgrade to 1 megabit, then asked the customer to sign the letter. As soon as Nildram carried out the request, the SNR shot up to 16 and there were no more problems.

Attenuation

Attenuation Down/Up is similar to SNR Margin. Lower is better. 63.5 is the maximum and that is normally only seen if you are a very long way away from the telephone exchange.

CRC

The next important figure is CRC Down/Up. CRC stands for Cyclic Redundancy Check. A small value such as 15/0 is okay, thousands is not. What is CRC? Imagine me reading you random numbers in groups of ten from a book. You write down each group of ten numbers, add them up and give the result back to me. If we agree, then I move on to the next group of ten numbers. If not, then I have to try again. If there are many errors much effort will be wasted. High CRC is related to insufficient SNR.

HEC

HEC stands for Header Error Control. It is sanity checking on data coming in from the telephone exchange. HEC errors are like CRC errors but not as bad. A HEC error means the MT882 finds a mistake due to noise but automatically corrects it on the fly. A few HECs are normal, thousands are not.

Step four: Diagnostic test

Now we need to use the MT882's Diagnostic Test page to triple-check our ADSL synchronisation. Are you sensing a theme here? :-) On the left side, click Tools, then Diagnostics, then below Diagnostics, click Submit. The page will fill in gradually until you should have green PASS for the first five items. Here our ADSL synchronisation is confirmed (Testing ADSL line for sync: PASS). ATM stands for Asynchronous Transfer Mode and OAM stands for Operation and Maintenance.

Diagnostic test

You have "Testing ADSL line for sync: Fail"?

What is ADSL synchronisation? You cannot hear the noise that the local telephone exchange makes on the line, because that noise is removed by the microfilter, but the MT882 can. Before Internet access can work, the modem part of the MT882 must link up or "synchronise" with its partner modem at the telephone exchange. Note that this is not the same as Internet access, that is a different thing. ADSL synchronisation is the prerequisite.

If you have BT line rental - problems with ADSL synchronisation are controlled by BT, but you as a consumer cannot call BT on the matter. BT only answers ADSL synchronisation queries to Internet Service Providers. You must call TalkTalk, and TalkTalk must phone BT on your behalf. There is no way around it. If you don't have ADSL synchronisation, and you unplugged all your phones, and you remembered to also unplug Sky TV Digital Box, and you have an NTE5 Master Socket, and you plugged your microfilter into the Test Socket inside the Master Socket, and you plugged the RJ-11 cable straight into the microfilter, and you plugged the other end of the RJ-11 cable straight into the ADSL socket on the MT882, and you tried another router/modem with the same result, and you tried another microfilter, and you tried a different RJ-11 cable, you have to call TalkTalk. :-(

There is nothing you can do to help by fiddling with your computer, because it's not your computer causing the problem. The problem is to do with the connection from the MT882 to the telephone exchange. Most often the problem is caused by forgetting to unplug something plugged into the phone, for example, I once spent a long time trying to get ADSL synchronisation with a customer where the problem was being caused by a Sky TV Digital Box that they had forgotten to tell me about.

You have "Testing ATM OAM segment ping / end to end ping: Fail"?

It may indicate a fault at the telephone exchange. Or, it may be normal and can be ignored. What? Put succinctly: does the telephone exchange have older (BT owned and operated) or newer (TalkTalk owned and operated) equipment in it? If the former, this error suggests a fault that needs be taken seriously. If the latter, the error may mean nothing because the exchange may not support the ATM OAM test and it is ignored. Therefore, it is undesirable, but possible, to have this error and a working Internet connection at the same time.

Step five: PPP login

It's time to log in to your TalkTalk Broadband account. If this step works then you will have a working TalkTalk Broadband connection and then you can browse web pages and set up your email (hurrah). On the left side, click Basic menu, followed by WAN Settings. Next to PVC-0, under Actions, click the little pencil.

PVC-O

The page should look like this. In Username and Password enter the username and password given in your welcome letter. Remember the username and password is case-sensitive. For example, "MYPASSWORD" is different to "mypassword". Check the Caps Lock key on your keyboard to make sure you're not typing in capitals by mistake. On laptops, the Num Lock key on causes certain letter keys to type a number instead of a letter, so make sure Num Lock is off.

WAN settings

Click Submit at the foot of the page. Then click Save All which is on the left side. If you forget to click Save All, the MT882 will forget the changes you have made when its power is turned off.

Save All

You will be asked if you are sure you want to save all settings, click OK.

Save All confirm

The changes you made will be saved permanently into the MT882. The MT882 will then automatically attempt to log into TalkTalk ISP using Point to Point Protocol (PPP). To find out if it worked, go to the next step.

Step six: Verify PPP login

Go to the WAN Settings page. You should now have IP Address and Gateway filled in with numbers beginning with 80-something (not 0.0.0.0), as shown below. These values are given to the MT882 by TalkTalk ISP. Their appearance means the broadband connection username and password was accepted by the other end and the communication between the MT882 and the ISP is working. The LINK light on the MT882 should turn orange which means the PPP connection is working. You may need to reload the page in the web browser to see the new IP Address and Gateway. Use the Refresh or Reload button in the main toolbar at the top of the web browser's window.

PVC-0 OK

Use the Diagnostic Test again and you should get this. PPPoE isn't used and does not apply to you. "Authentication with server" refers to the username and password on your welcome letter.

Diagnostic Test again

Once you have a fully successful Diagnostic Test, this means that the MT882 is correctly set up and working.

Trouble with PPP login

Using another router/modem

You may use another router/modem instead of the one provided by TalkTalk. Use the following settings:
You may not need to specify all these settings yourself. With most UK products, all the settings are preset or automatically detected so all you have to fill in yourself is the username/password from the TalkTalk welcome letter. However, take care with the MTU value (1432). You may need to specify that in yourself. If 1432 doesn't work, try 1400.

Step seven: Verify Internet access on computer

Click Start menu, Run, type cmd, click OK and at the black screen enter these commands, pressing Enter at the end of each line. First ping the assigned IP address given to the MT882:

ping 89.x.x.x

where x.x.x is the "assigned IP address" shown on the diagnostic test page. Internet IP addresses assigned by TalkTalk begin with 89, the rest may vary. Then ping the "default gateway" IP address also shown on the diagnostic test page. These two steps check that the external interface (the Internet facing side) of the MT882 is working correctly.

Next, ping TalkTalk's Domain Name System (DNS) servers:

ping 62.24.128.17
ping 62.24.128.18


Successful replies means the connection from the MT882 to TalkTalk ISP's internal systems appears to be working. What is DNS? Every computer on the Internet is known by its numeric IP address. The Domain Name System translates human-memorable names to IP addresses. As you can imagine, the DNS service is rather important. Now try pinging somewhere on the Internet outside of TalkTalk, like so:

ping 193.195.224.1
ping demon.net

The first command tests access to Demon Internet by its numeric IP address. The second line tests access to it by its name. In case Demon is not available for some reason, try the BBC:

ping 212.58.224.138
ping bbc.co.uk


Given successful replies to the above, you should find that all the other Internet functions on your computer work as normal.

Pinging numeric IP addresses works but pinging names doesn't?

it means there is a problem with the "Domain Name Server (DNS) Resolver" that is part of Windows XP, or a problem with TalkTalk's DNS servers. If you are able to ping but web browsing doesn't work, there is something wrong with your web browser eg Internet Explorer. Fixing Windows XP DNS and web browser problems is beyond this article. If you are unsure, borrow a friend's laptop that is known to work and go to step two above.

Web browsing

Now start a web browser, such as Internet Explorer. A web browser is a program used for looking at web sites, in the same way as a telescope is used for looking at far away objects. Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Safari and Konqueror are all examples of web browser programs. You should now find that the web browser works normally.

You can ping but you can't browse the web?

You might have been cut off because you haven't paid your bill.

Web browsing is miserably slow?

Check the ADSL sync by following step 3 above. "ADSL Loss of Sync" means the router/modem loses the ADSL connection and has to re-establish it, causing a delay. Loss of Sync is related to insufficient SNR.

Some web pages work normally, yet some other web pages take 60 seconds to load?

Change the "Configured MTU" option on the WAN Settings page from 1432 to 1400. This may cure a problem where some web sites load immediately while other web sites fail to load after a delay of about a minute. MTU stands for Maximum Transmission Unit, or Most Troublesome Unit.

Some buttons on some web pages do not work?

Try ADSL Mode G.dmt. This fixes a problem where web pages appear to load normally but then clicking some buttons on some web pages has no effect. Recently I sent an email to myself from someone's Outlook email program, by way of TalkTalk Broadband. I logged into my webmail, clicked Reply, then clicked Send, and the Send button did nothing. The Send button was uselessly inoperative, no matter how many times I clicked it. The Status bar of the web browser remained on "Waiting for page" and the webmail reply was not sent. I tried another web browser and a different webmail but the problem was the same. I thought, "This cannot be." I changed ADSL Mode to G.dmt and the MTU to 1400; the problem disappeared.

Step eight: Plugging the telephone handsets back in

Once you have Internet access working, it is then safe to start putting your other telephone equipment back in. Remember, each analogue telephone device (phone handset, fax machine, dial-up modem, Sky digital box) must go through a microfilter when the line has been enabled for broadband. The MT882 itself must never be filtered. The fewer microfilters the better; no more than 4. There must not be anything double-filtered.

One microfilter, many telephones

The recommended way is to have one microfilter plugged directly into the Master Socket, and the MT882 plugged in via a short RJ-11 cable to the ADSL socket on that microfilter. There can have several phone handsets and telephone extension leads plugged into the remaining socket on the microfilter. At the other end of the extension leads, there do not need to be more microfilters - the extension leads are already filtered. Keep the MT882 near to the Master Socket and use a short RJ-11 cable. If your computer is a long way from the Master Socket, use a long Ethernet cable. You can use a long RJ-11 cable if you are desperate but it is not recommended; far better to use a long Ethernet cable instead.

One microfilter per telephone

The alternative is to have one microfilter for each analogue device (phone handset / fax / dial-up modem / Sky TV digital box) you have. The  most you are supposed to have is 4 microfilters per telephone line. Connect the MT882 with a short RJ-11 cable - directly to the microfilter on the Master Socket. Avoid putting the MT882 on the end of a telephone extension.

Need more than four microfilters?

Dave Spagnol wrote recommending a modified NTE5 Master Socket with built-in filtering that eliminates the need to have microfilters scattered throughout a house. His explanation: "My dad and his wife live in a 3-bed house, plus a front lobby. They have a phone in every room, no kidding. They had a spare socket in the kitchen which is where they set up the MT882. That's 7 filters in parallel. If that doesn't degrade ADSL I don't know what will. Anyway I got them the a Linksys WAG54GS wireless router, replaced the front of the BT master socket with the "gadget", plugged the Wireless Router into it, and got rid of all those microfilters. Suddenly we were in business! They'd been nagging CPW for weeks, getting all manner of 'expert' friends to have a look, when the answer was that their installation was flawed."

All phones ring at once?

If when plugging in, all phones suddenly start ringing at the same time, it means you have exceeded the Ringer Equivalence Number (REN) for your telephone line. Underneath each telephone or fax machine is a green "BT Approved" sticker with the REN value, usually 1. If the REN total of all the telephone handsets, faxes, old-style non-broadband dial-up computer modems and Sky TV Digital Box(es) exceeds 4 then you might find that problem.

Step nine: Email

TalkTalk Broadband does not provide a TalkTalk email address initially. A TalkTalk email address is one that is in the form something@talktalk.net where something is a name of your choice (described below). However, do you really need an email address that is specific to TalkTalk? If you do then you may end up trapped with TalkTalk forever because of needing to keep that email address.

Use an alternative provider for your email. Then you are not dependent upon TalkTalk for your email address. Use TalkTalk for the basic Internet connection but set up your regular email address with another company. When your TalkTalk account reaches the end of the minimum contract period, you can cancel TalkTalk Broadband and switch to another broadband provider and still keep on using your existing email account, no email settings changes required.

Try a third-party webmail service such as Hotmail, Yahoo or Google Mail. Webmail means you use a web browser such as Internet Explorer to access a website which sends and receives email messages. The website also stores the messages you have sent and received. With this method, TalkTalk provides access to the website - but that website is outside of TalkTalk, so you can switch away from TalkTalk and still access the same website. You can also travel elsewhere and still read the messages you sent and received.

Better yet, use a dedicated email service provider such as Virtual Names. Virtual Names allows you to create a new email address of your choice, such as you@yourname.me.uk. It costs about £35 for the first year and about £25 for the second year. The email address is transportable so you can switch to a different email service provider and still keep the same email address.
  1. On the Virtual Names web page, follow the steps to register a domain name such as yourname.me.uk. The me.uk suffix means "UK Individual"; other suffixes are available.
  2. When prompted choose Basic Hosting. Follow the remaining steps to complete the registration process.
  3. You will be sent a username and password for Virtual Names' control panel. Click Domains, then create a new mailbox. The mailbox name is part of the email address before the @ sign, such as you.
  4. To read your new email, use the webmail page on the Virtual Names website. Optionally, also add the new address to the Accounts settings in your favourite email client program such as Mozilla SeaMonkey, Mozilla Thunderbird, Outlook Express, Outlook, Apple Mail, Entourage, etc. Instructions for doing this are on Virtual Names' website.
With this, the mail servers for sending and receiving are outside of TalkTalk, but you still access them via the TalkTalk Internet connection. If you switch away from TalkTalk, and reconnect to the Internet through someone else, the email address and all the other email settings remain unchanged and continue to work without having to be touched.

Oct 07: An anonymous contributor sent me this comment: "Although you pointed out that it is a good idea not to rely on talktalk for e-mail it is probably worth adding what a bag of c$%p their webmail service is - wtf is going on with poland based servers??"

To create a TalkTalk email address:

  1. Visit the web site http://supportcentre.talktalk.net/. Here it will say "Welcome to the TalkTalk Broadband Dashboard".
  2. Enter your broadband username and password from your TalkTalk welcome letter.
  3. Click "Login".
  4. Now you should have a screen that says "Below is a list of your connection user names and passwords", followed by the username that you just entered and the password in asterisks. This is the password is used for connecting to broadband, not connecting to email, that is a different thing. At the moment the broadband password exists but the email password hasn't yet exist, we do that in the next step.

    Dashboard

  5. Just to the right of the word "Connection", click Email (circled above).
  6. Click Add New Email Account.
  7. Now you should be on a page that says "To add a new email address please complete the form below and click on 'Add'".

    Add email

  8. Fill in Username with the email name of your choice, for example, joebloggs to create the TalkTalk email address joebloggs@talktalk.net.
  9. Enter a password of your choice and again to confirm it. This is called the POP3 password, or email receive password. POP3 stands for Post Office Protocol version 3. Note that the email receive password does not have to be the same as the broadband connect password. Why? The computer that connects you to the Internet is different to the one that receives your incoming email. Also, the security of the broadband connect password isn't very important because it can only be used from the broadband registered phone number, whereas the email password is accessible world-wide. So "password" is acceptable as a broadband connect password, but is not an acceptable email receive password. Hackers use "guess lists" to break into other people's email accounts and guess which word is at the top of the list? To make a better password, think of a song and use the initials of that, for example, It's a Long Way to Tipperary would be IaLW2T. If you can have a mixture of capital letters and numbers so much the better.
  10. Click Add.
  11. The new TalkTalk email address will be added to TalkTalk's system, provided someone else isn't already using that address.
  12. To verify the address, visit the TalkTalk webmail address, which is http://webmail.talktalk.net/ and log in to it using the email name and password you just made.
  13. To use the email address with an email client program, use the following settings given the example above:

To verify TalkTalk incoming email:

  1. At the "cmd" prompt, enter the following command, including the spaces, 110 is a number:

    telnet pop3.talktalk.net 110

  2. It should respond with:

    Trying 62.24.128.134...
    Connected to pop3.talktalk.net.
    Escape character is '^]'.
    +OK Hello there.
       
  3. This means it worked; you have successfully established a network connection to the incoming mail (Post Office Protocol) server at pop3.talktalk.net, on port 110. Port 110 is a channel reserved for the purpose of receiving POP3 email. Now enter the POP3 commands to log in, using the above example you would type:

    user joebloggs@talktalk.net
    pass IaLW2T


  4. If the email username and password is correct you will be rewarded with:

    +OK User successfully logged on.

  5. To see a list of messages waiting in your mailbox, enter list. To see the contents of message number 1, enter retr 1. To delete message number 1 so it is removed from the mailbox (it will never be received onto your computer), type: dele 1. To disconnect from the POP3 server, use quit. Given the above works, you should find your email client (Outlook Express, whatever) works for receiving email. If not, it means there is something wrong at your end and not with the TalkTalk incoming mail server.

To verify TalkTalk outgoing email

  1. At the "cmd" prompt, enter the following, including the spaces:

    telnet smtp.talktalk.net 25

  2. If connected successfully you should get something like:

    Trying 62.24.128.121...
    Connected to smtp.talktalk.net.
    Escape character is '^]'.
    220 asmtp-out6.talktalk.net ESMTP Mon, 07 May 2007 23:05:44 +0100

  3. If so, it means the basic communication to TalkTalk's outgoing mail server on port 25 works. Your email client should be able to send. You may need to set "Use name and password" or "SMTP server requires authentication" and enter the same username/password as for receiving before sending will work.

Step ten: Getting away from TalkTalk

Come on, then. Once bitten, twice shy. In my opinion, it is not worth economising on your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Get a decent Internet provider, not the cheapest. Then use that connection to find some other way to save your pennies.

To switch to another ISP when your TalkTalk contract period is over, you need to make sure that your email address is not dependent upon TalkTalk, ie it doesn't end in @talktalk.net. You did that? Good. Now phone TalkTalk, close your account and ask for a Migration Authorisation Code (MAC). With the authorisation code, contact another ISP and they will be able to arrange a switchover.

Which to choose? I personally use Demon for my broadband Internet connection. Demon has been around for a very long time and is relatively pricey for what you get but I feel that is a good thing. I have been satisfied with the service from Demon, and so have my other customers that I have set up on Demon. The billing department isn't the greatest (I once found they had taken a payment twice when they were only supposed to take it once) but technically they do their job. On the thankfully rare occasions I have had to call them for my other customers, they answered quickly and were helpful.

Postscript: Contacting TalkTalk on the phone

"TalkTalk: Was ever a company less well named?" It seems that evenings are a better time to call. First line support has the phone number in the welcome booklet; their job is to check the basics, such as, did you put all the microfilters in the right places? If they draw a blank then they give you the number of the mythical Second Line Support whose number is not published and changes every 5 days. They close at 10 pm. I have only spoken to Second Line Support once. The problem did get sorted in the end, but on the stroke of 10 pm the operator seemed to abandon the call, leaving me hanging on the phone listening to nothing but the sound of office workers departing the building (as far as I could tell).

Update: An anonymous writer sent me this: "I am an employee of TalkTalk 2nd line, the statement on your website wherein you are saying '...listening to nothing but the sound of him and other office workers departing the building.' is an outright lie. The situation where an advisor drops his headset and leaves without logging off from his phone system is never possible."



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Phil is a self-employed freelance computer repairer for home users. He works in Slough, Windsor, Maidenhead and Gerrards Cross outside West London, UK. Email: phil {at} pjc.me.uk. Replace {at} with @ to email.