Looking for a VoIP Router? (forget Netgear & cheapies TP-Link. etc)
by Allen Williams
Recently I had to purchase a new router as my old Netgear finally played out. I bought the WNR1000v3 model expecting it to be pretty much like my older 2002 version. However after installing, I noticed I wasn't receiving any calls on my VoIP device except for one or two numbers. Having some friends phone me quickly revealed that attempted call connects were being dropped. Talking to MJ support, I discovered that several forwarding ports were required, (addr: 5060, 5070) to allow the magic Jack to receive.
The Netgear router configuration menu is two pages of overlapping sub menu layers containing various functions in several tabs; it's not easy to navigate. I set-up the required MJ ports but still wasn't getting any calls. Next, I configured Windows Firewall to permit MJ. I soon discovered that the ports had to be configured as 'forwarding' NOT as 'triggering' which I had initially done. Now, the phone was finally working for outgoing as well as incoming calls. Thinking everything was OK, I shut down the system at day's end.
The next day the problem of dropped calls returned. Internet worked OK as before but something in the WNR1000v3 was blocking my MJ calls. I could call out and even Fax but couldn't receive. I checked the port forwards and they looked OK. Then, I asked the cable people to be certain they weren't blocking anything. They weren't. So, I contacted Netgear support but instead of getting help, they demanded that I send a copy of my 'proof of purchase' before receiving support. As, it turned out you could have gotten better support from a cereal box ad than Netgear. Here's what they e-mailed me:
"Before we proceed with any troubleshooting steps, we would like to request for a scanned copy of the proof of purchase to be send to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is for us to validate the registration details of your product and provide you with accurate warranty information. On your email, please refer to case number 23353863. You will be notified once the registration has been updated and you can send us a follow up so we can continue on resolving your issue." - Sierra
So, was this from High Sierra or just Sierra? The foreign names are a clear indication that any 'technical' support is going to be challenging. Beware of the electronic industry's customer support. Their products are assembled in places like Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, etc and most do not communicate particulary well in english. The main focus of these companies is to use cheap foreign labor and dodge US taxes. (Microsoft's technical support from India is a good example.)
I informed the Netgear support tech that I''ve configured Windows firewall to allow Majic Jack ports 5060 and 5070. I tried configuring both forwarding and triggering ports, i.e. UDP ports 5060, 5070 per Majic Jack recommendations under the advanced Setup category in Netgear genie but nothing worked. Genie would not let me select anything other than ''FTP'' for the ports. I also updated the firmware from the Netgear site. No difference. Next, I went back into the genie and turned off the DHCP server function under the LAN Setup portion of the WPS Wizard and then set the Device as a WAN default DMZ server. However, the router signal got weaker and weaker until around 7% and finally quit working so I had to use the reset button to return to their default settings. The first 'technical' response from Netgear advised me to use the DMZ section of the router.
"Thank you for your reply. I understand that the problem persists. At this point, I would suggest that you perform the following: 1) How to Configure DMZ on Home NETGEAR routers http://kb.netgear.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1118"
So, I configured the DMZ Default Server with that of the Majic Jack router address, i.e.the DMZ Server pointing directly to the MJ router address at 192.168.1.2 and saved per http://kb.netgear.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1118 instructions. I had someone try to call me after configuring the DMZ connection and the call immediately dropped out. There is no error code sent to the caller, nor reported to MJ. While I could dump all the router signals directly on my hard drive using the default DMZ server, the MJ device had no access. I reported my attempt to Netgear support:
In short, the DMZ feature is supposed to allow full internet access to the device configured under this category but it didn't. This revelation should have immediately alerted Netgear 'technical support' to the possiblility of a firmware glitch but amazingly it didn't.
"Since we have performed all the possible troubleshooting steps, I would suggest you to contact the support for Majic Jack. It could be that there are some setting that the Majic Jack requires to be set on the router. Please let us know the advise that they will provide you so that we will be able to further help you in resolving your concern."
Note that Attention Deficit Disorder Syndrome (ADDS) is much more prevalent in the global society than one might at first suspect. If you're more than three cycles down the road in an e-mail exchange with Netgear support, most of what you've already described to the technician is lost. Why? because these foreign company reps act as 'technical advisors' for hundreds of products (and likely for more than just Netgear) and Sierra probably gets 20 to 30 requests per hour. Never mind that all he had to do was scroll down the e-mail for the complete history. He simply advises me to do what I had done earlier. Also, keep in mind that you're considered 'stupid' by these people as confirmed by many of the simplistic responses you get.
After another email to Netgear they finally agreed that there could be a hardware problem and I could return the unit. However, I would have had to pay for shipment of a new unit or do without internet service until they received my defective unit and shipped a new one. I didn''t intend to pay to return a defective product NOT of my making. Netgear doesn't offer much of a warranty. I opted to return it to the store where I puchased it and buy another brand. While in the process of acquiring another manufacturers router, Netgear now decides to upgrade their firmware:
We just released new firmware that will improve the WiFi range and speed of your NETGEAR® N150 WiFi Router (WNR1000) and increase the reliability of the NETGEAR mobile genie® app. We recommend you install the update now.
It should have been recognized at Netgear that users would at best have to shut down their systems occasionally for maintenance, etc and that that operation should not prevent the router from re-initializing to allow VoIP use which obviously it did. And no mention of a fix for my VoIP case problem identified in their firmware release.
NEXT.. a go at TP-Link
I bought TP-Link's TL-WR841N router with the latest firmware. It had a single page menu with multiple sublayers, much easier to work than Netgear. I set about configuiring the known MJ ports (plus a few extra per the forums) as I had done for Netgear.
However upon completion MJ still refused to receive any calls. At this point I looked to the internet forums for specific advice on how to setup routers for VoIP operation.
I tried many of the supposed 'fixes' out on various Internet forums including turning off your firewall and disabling all four cases of ALG under TP-Llink's 'Security' directory, all to no avail. Here's the best one I tried: http://zaxa.ca/magicjack-plus-not-working-plugged-directly-in-the-router-solved and it was this case alone that lead me to conclude that Tp-Link's firmware was seriously glitched. The article states: "The Problem lies with some router's firewalls being too strict as MJ+ tends to work with older routers with original firmware. I have several routers with which I have confirmed this. The newer ones with updated ROMs almost never allow MJ+ to go through; some allow calls to be made out but not receive any."
This guy's forum advice precisely described what I was experiencing with my VoIP. I downloaded a program to find MJ's MAC address and connected the reserved IP address, i.e. 192.168.0.200 to the MJ's MAC address under TP-Link's 'Address Reservation' directory per the article's advice. I had already built a static IP address for MJ per the above article which should have prevented TP-Link's router from assigning a new IP address to the device. However, the phone didn't ring. I also turned off DHCP action on MJ's advanced configuration in my account there. I put in the reserved IP address, i.e. 192.168.0.200, the subset mask, etc and got the green light from MJ which says it was successfully configured. Still the phone wouldn't ring!
Once again, I contacted the Router manufacturer's support group, this time for TP-Link. I got Sophia Zhang, obviously asian and in a country where english is rarely spoken but they are more courteous to customers with problems than Netgear.
"..my intention was suggest you change the IP address for the Majic Jack which is within the 100-199 range. Since you can use the router to ping the Majic Jack 's IP address 192.168.0.250, that means the Majic Jack has established a connection with the router." - Sophia Zhang
If it doesn't work outside the range, why on earth would it be different inside the range? Especially since that was done in my first configuration. No, the 'pinging' doesn't mean the router is meaningfully communicating with the router.or the phone would ring. I told Mss Zhang that I had tried configuring the various forwarding ports in the router per the ZAXA article. They also didn't work with or without DHCP on. TP-Link firmware continues to block MJ even when using a reserved IP address OUTSIDE the supposed control features of the router firmware. What good is the ability to set a reserved address outside an IP range, if the firmware controls it anyway? As expected, the TP-Link DMZ function also failed to work. I thought there might have been a router hardware problem, so I exchanged the unit for asecond WR841N. The thinking at TP-Link seems to be, click on whatever button you like, put in any port address, turn 'on' or 'off' any of our functions because it makes absolutely no difference. Her reply:
..Moreover, is there any possibility that you can get another router connected with Magic Jack, and try to open port for the Magic Jack? Since you have already tried two TL-WR841N with no success, we are not sure whether it is the router's problem or other problem, because most of the customer can open ports successfully if the port is allowed by ISP and there is no other obstacle."
The TP-Link response is utter nonsense. Other customers would not have had any better success at configuring VoIP on WR-841N than I did. The ports need to open for VoIP use and they clearly didn't. The answer was to purchase yet another Router.
Cisco's Linksys WRT-54GL to the rescue!
I now purchased a third router, the Linksys WRT-54gl having returned the TP-Link WR-841N to where I purchased it. I could have opted for the newer Linksys 300N but at this point, I needed something working and there was plenty of forum data demonstrating the WRT-54GL's ability to succesfuly interface with MJ.
The Linksys DHCP Clients Table under Status\Local Network gives you the 'MJ' IP address.
The WRT-54GL has a simple menu with several menu subsets that are easy to follow.
Configuration is straight forward. Simply uncheck 'Block Anonymous Internet Requests' under the Security menu and configure the MJ ports under Linksys 'Applications & Gaming' \ Port Range Forward. And that's it! The phone rang immediately. Linksys was spot on. I left the static IP address that I had configured in MJ's advance configuration in the TP-Link case intact for use by the Linksys router. I can now call and receive as well as FAX with Magic Jack.
Don't expect the Router manufacturer's technical support team to solve your problems with their products, most that I've dealt with haven't got a clue as to how their own hardware and firmware works. The forums are better by far.