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Alcatel Speed Touch 510 Review

Alcatel may be one of the best known names of ADSL hardware supply in the UK primarily because of the Alcatel Speed Touch USB modem (aKa slug/stringray) shipped on most single-user aimed IPStream500 connections by BT. Some people may choose to stay away from Alcatel totally due to the earlier problems associated with this product, however I think the 510 is worth a look. Both a single-port, and a four-port hub versions are available, although they are both rated at 10BaseT only.

The Kit

If purchasing from DSLsource, you can select to get the 'self install pack' which gives you either the single or four-port version with 2 filters:

The rear panel showing power switch, power connector, four-port hub, reset button, and DSL line connector can be seen here:

Getting Going

It would be hard to make the initial configuration of the router easier. Connect the router up to your network card using the provided patch cable. Whether set to DHCP or static assigned IP addresses, the CD should find the router without any problems. If you are not using a Windows based computer, the setup guide talks you through connecting to the router with the default IP settings and uploading a configuration file available on the CD, or possibly available from the web. UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) support is built in although I could find no documentation on this, or how to use it.

The router may come with just the Alcatel CD or perhaps in addition, a CD provided by your service provider / hardware provided which contains different configurations for use in the UK. DSLsource provide just 1 custom config file, which is for NAT with DHCP enabled. The Alcatel default ones are available by changing the region to World.

The configuration screen then asks for your ISP username and password, and also a username and password to be applied to the router to ensure that no one else can get access (if you forget this, you can reset the router to clear it). The router then reboots itself, and if necessary your computer to turn on DHCP for the network card connected to the router.

On completion of the CD configuration, it asks you to open a web browser to the router. Doing so would present the status webpage as below, and as you can see it had already been online for 40seconds. A simple ping check out to the Internet concurs with this. This took all of about 3minutes to get the router setup, online, and be browsing the web.

NAT/PAT

The web browser interface is by far the easiest method to make any changes to the configuration, although it is not extensive on the full range of features of the router. A commonly used page may be the NAPT (Network Address Port Translation) section. This enables you to configure various port translation rules through the router back to IP’s on your network side. This gives the option to forward everything to one IP address or to set up static rules for different ports to different computers.

The above configuration will send everything to 10.0.0.5 (my Linux server) except for port 21, which is sent to a Windows machine running an FTP server. This config appears to work flawlessly. You can create many different rules to different machines if required. If you try to forward an existing port, it notifies you of the duplicate and doesn’t add it. By leaving the outside IP as its default 0.0.0.0 when creating a rule, this will bind the rule to whatever IP address you get on connecting- useful if you are assigned a dynamic IP address.

If you were to have multiple accounts with static IP (e.g a home and work account), you could setup the outside IP accordingly. This would allow you to forward ports to a certain IP when connected to one account, and to another IP when on the other account. Something that may be an interesting approach.

Tweaking

Once you have set up the router how you would like it configured, perhaps you may want to make a backup of this configuration in case something goes wrong, or perhaps you want to try tweak some settings on the router. The ‘Upgrade’ section of the interface allows you to save the configuration to disk. This allows you to either plug this in when using the CD to configure the router, or to alternatively upload it straight on to the router from the Upgrade screen. This page also allows you to easily upgrade the firmware on the router when any updates become available from Alcatel.

The DNS and DHCP pages allow you to change settings used on the local LAN. On this configuration file, the DHCP was set up to assign from 10.0.0.1 up to 10.255.255.254, which is perhaps obscene, as having that many machines try to send traffic at the router or attempting to send it across the ADSL line would produce a severe bottleneck. You can easily add new ranges to assign and turn DHCP off completely if required. Interestingly, the 510 also acts as a DNS server to your local network. This will take the names of the PC’s that access it via DHCP and add them to a static config so that you can refer to your machines via name rather than by IP address.

 

Routing

If your ISP has assigned you a subnet of IP addresses, you may be wondering how you can set the router up for a no NAT config. I found that neither the DSLsource or the Alcatel provided CDs supplied had the relevant configuration files to allow this setup to work easily, so I had to hack at the config files myself. Check here to take a look.

The CLI is very similar to other Alcatel routers and is fairly easy to find what you are looking for. If you are trying to set up a routed IP config, you may well have to use it. This is also where you’ll find the ‘embedded firewall.’

Commands on the CLI are pretty easy to work out as it prompts you for each variable it requires, although I did find there where some things which were cryptic and had to look them up in the CLI reference manual (which is available for download from the Alcatel website here). The following shows the diagnostics/status of the ADSL connection with dB readings, information of data transfered, and also information of the remote hardware.

Firewall

After playing with the firewall rules for a couple of hours, I managed to decipher how exactly to set it up to allow access in a specific way. Namely, I set it up so I could access the telnet and web interfaces from certain IP ranges outside of the ADSL connection. It proved to work as I wanted, but involved lots of patience, locking myself out of the router entirely several times, and having a working config ready for re-upload to router on reset. If you already have a 510, you will also be able to configure it here to allow ICMP to the router so you can remotely ping it to make sure it is online- a useful change I found. You may want to have a look at my edited config available here, which shows the added rules for ICMP. Note that this firewall setup allows any traffic through the router to the IPs behind it. I would suggest running a firewall on the local side of the network if you are not 100% certain that the firewall rules you have created on the AST510 are secure.

Verdict

The ‘Alcatel Speed Touch 510 Residential Gateway’ is aimed at residential/SOHO users and I think is one of the easiest to use in this kind of situation. It is extremely simple to set up for NAT and has proved reliable in my testing of it. If you are planning to use a VPN, you'll have to configure the port forwards via the CLI as the web interface does not allow this. It supports various protocols, and it looks like most things are supported.

As with most Ethernet based routers, latency is lower when compared with more processor intensive USB/PCI based devices. I averaged 25-26ms to my ISP’s first hop, which seems to be the same as most other Ethernet routers I have tested. Download and upload speeds were able to max out when tested singularly (the 510 capable of 8Mbps to 1Mbps) and when I turned off traffic shaping on my local side, I found the usual flaw of the downstream falling to the level of the upstream speeds, due to large buffers and no prioritisation of traffic ACK packets. I have yet to find a router that can handle this well.

The manual is fairly brief, and describes mainly how to set up the router on a windows based PC. The description of the web interface could be more in depth, but is adequate. The command line interface is left out of the user manual completely for some reason but is available separately on the Alcatel web site.


Prices: £169 - Speed Touch 510 ADSL Ethernet Router (Including 2 micro-filters)
£189 - Speed Touch 510 ADSL 4 Port Ethernet Router (Including 2 micro-filters)
 
Places to buy: See our DSL Hardware FAQ
 
Specs: http://www.speedtouchdsl.com/prod510.htm

John Hunt
john@thinkbroadband.com

The contents of this review should not be relied upon in making a purchasing decision—You should always discuss your requirements with your service provider and hardware supplier.