Connecting a router to BigPond or Optus Cable
Since the Telstra Heartbeat system
was retired back in 2006-07 both Telstra and Optus now use an almost
identical authentication system. However, installing a router to
gain Internet sharing &/or security onto a Cable ISP isn't always
straight forward and there are a few tricks and traps for the unwary.
What's the difference between a modem and a router?
Where to buy Cable modems
Have you got the right type of Cable modem to
plug into a router?
How to find a suitable router
How to configure a Router for Cable
What's the difference between
a modem and a router?
Firstly, it's important to understand the difference between a
modem and a router. A modem provides the link (bridge) between your
ISP and your home. A router takes that connection and shares it
to the PCs and other devices on your home network using a process
called NAT (Network Address Translation). Routers may also have
other features like firewalls to keep the hackers out and other
advanced security features to restrict access to certain material
on the web, built-in Wireless Access Points, built-in VPN servers,
VoIP hardware and more. Many routers even have the modem part built-in
as well, which I call "all-in-ones". Routers that don't
have built-in modems will need a modem plugged into them to form
the bridge between the ISP and the router. Modems in this function
do not perform any NAT, security, wireless, VoIP or anthing else.
They are just "dumb" bridges passing everything through
to the router they're connected to, and from the router back to
Check out my Router FAQs for more
information about routers.
Where to buy Cable modems
Unlike ADSL, Cable modems can only be sourced from the Cable
ISPs in Australia*. You cannot buy a Cable modem or an all-in-one-cable-modem-router
from a retailer. The main reason for this is that the Cable modem
has to be registered on the Cable ISP's network before it will work.
* While I know of no retail or wholesale sources for Cable modems
within Australia, you can however buy a second hand Cable modem
privately from eBay etc and then contact your ISP to have the modem
registered on the network. This can save a few dollars if you need
to replace a damaged modem when you're out of contract. However,
Cable ISPs will only accept certain brands and models of modems
so do not buy one, particularly from overseas sellers, without first
checking with your ISP first if they will accept it. Also be wary
of old tech DOCSIS 1.0 etc modems. These will still usually work
as far as I'm aware but may not perform the best. Rule of thumb
- if in doubt, check with your ISP before you fork over your cash.
Now, to share your Cable Internet connection on a network you can
buy plenty of routers that you can plug
your existing Cable modem into, provided it's the right type of
Have you got the right type of
Cable modem to plug into a router?
The first thing to consider when looking for a router for Cable
is the type of Cable modem you have, and by that I mean if it's
a plain old bridged modem (with no router features) or an all-in-one
Modem-Routers (aka All-In-Ones): If you've got an all-in-one
(Modem+Router+Wireless) modem such as the Netgear
CG814WG, it is already a router so you already have everything
you need. These tend to be reasonable products if your needs are
only basic such as browsing the web and checking email with up to
10 or so connected devices (PCs, iPhones, Media Centres etc). However,
they usually fall short if you have a larger or busier network or
you need to do stuff like add an ATA
for VoIP, gaming, P2P downloading, increasing wifi performance
or VPNs. In these
cases you're better off getting a standard bridged modem* to plug
into a router of your choice.
* With some All-In-One products it may be possible to configure
it in "bridging mode" so it becomes a plain bridged modem
which you can then successfully plug into another router. While
I don't have specific details on how to do this (or if it's possible)
for every product out there, for some general background information
about bridging all-in-one modem-routers see my router
FAQ 3.6. For more detailed information for your particular product,
try googling its model No (eg CG814WG) + "bridge mode"
and you'll usually turn up a few forum posts with instructions from
people who have either been successful or not as the case may be.
Bridged modem: If you've got a plain modem like the Motorola
SB5101 you're laughing. These can be plugged straight into a
router without any special configuration.
Once you've figured out if you have a bridged modem, or how to
get one either by asking your ISP about an exchanging your all-in-one
for a plain modem or working out how to bridge your all-in-one,
it's time to choose a router.
How to find a suitable router.
The main feature that a router must have is an ethernet
WAN port. There are many products
available which have both built-in ADSL modems and ethernet WAN
ports and these are fine for either Cable or ADSL (bearing in
mind this often means sacrificing one of the LAN ports though so
you may only be left with 3 instead of 4), but if it only has an
ADSL modem and does not feature an Ethernet WAN port it will not
be suitable for Cable.
An easy way to find routers with an ethernet WAN port is to use
my Find-A-Router tool and tick the
box for either "One" or "More than One"* beside
10/100 Ethernet WAN Ports or Gigabit WAN Ports. (10/100
WAN ports are usually cheaper than routers with Gigabit ports but
still plenty fast enough for Cable internet. Gigabit is the best
option though if you plan to upgrade to NBN any time soon. Choose
either 10/100 or gigabit at a time though, not both.)
* "More than one" is for people with two or more
broadband connections they wish to run simultaneously.
That will produce quite a large list on its own so choose some
other features and/or set a price range to narrow down the selection
As a rule of thumb for general home use, products from popular
brands like Billion, D-Link, Draytek and Netgear in the $50-150.00
bracket with a 10/100 or Gigabit WAN port and N300 or above wireless
are great choices.
(Note:Any products that attract too many complaints come off the
online shop and won't show a price in the Find-A-Router
tool so if you see a price it should be fine for the job regardless
of the brand).
For more advanced features like VoIP, Gigabit WAN ports and dual
band wireless, look in the $150-$300.00 bracket. Billion, Fritz
and Draytek are the most popular choices in the VoIP category. If
you're chasing fancy dual band wifi
standards like N750, N900 or 802.11ac, Netgear, D-Link and Linksys
are the way to go there.
For business or more commercial use, or larger home networks (ie
more than 20 connected devices or more than 3 or 4 gamers/torrent
users), go above $300. This is where you get products with better
build qualities and the processing power to handle a larger number
of connected devices without bogging down or rebooting constantly.
Note: Be aware that many of the products with built-in
ADSL modems as well as ethernet WAN ports have what is known as
a configurable LAN port, aka "EWAN". Using these will
mean losing one of the LAN ports to the Cable modem so you'll only
be left with three but other than that they're fine for the job.
How to configure a router for
Once you have your Cable modem plugged into the Internet port on
your router you'll need to follow your router's quick start guide
to log into it to start configuring it.
Once logged into the Router you can choose the setup wizard (if
it has one) or just go straight to the section where you enter your
ISP settings. This would normally be called Basic Settings such
as on a Netgear Router, or WAN or Internet Settings on most other
What you're looking for to make it connect to your ISP is an option
called "DHCP", "ISP assigned" or an "ISP
without a username & password" or similar.
Here is an example showing a typical Netgear Router -
And here is an example showing a D-Link Router -
And here is an example showing a Draytek Router -
Note: If you're on BigPond Cable and you see an option called
"BigPond" such as in the D-Link example above, avoid it.
This is for the old Heartbeat system
which no longer exists.
Any IP address settings should remain as automatic (also called
DHCP and ISP assigned)
Any DNS settings should also remain as automatic.
If there is an option to change the Mac address leave that with
the factory default for the time being.
Click the Apply button or any other options required to save the
settings and allow the router to reboot if it asks for it.
Once the router has rebooted test you are online by opening a Command
Prompt Window* by clicking Start > Run > Type "Command"
> Click "OK" >
Type "ping 126.96.36.199 -t" > press enter.
If it's not connected you'll get replies saying "Request
If the Router is off-line or rebooting you'll get replies saying
When it has connected you'll get replies saying "Reply from
188.8.131.52: bytes=32 time=22ms TTL=248" or something
Hit Control-C to stop the pings.
* If using a non-windows PC just try surfing the web to see if
If you're getting replies to the pings but cannot surf any websites,
check your DNS and/or browser proxy settings. More information in
the Router Troubleshooting FAQs.
The Secret Trick - Power Cycle the modem.
If you're not getting replies to the pings and therefore not online,
switch the modem off (at the wall, not just the standby button on
the top of the modem), wait 20 seconds or so then turn it back on
again. Wait until all of the lights indicate it's booted and synced
up again then do the same to the router and you should be up and
away. (Switching the modem off clears any memory it might have had
with the PC or previous router it was plugged into. Rebooting the
router after that allows it to attempt to connect to the ISP again.)
Note: Switching routers off and on too quickly can sometimes
cause them to throw wobblers or reset back to their factory default
Spoofing the MAC (media access control) Address
This is last resort only, but if switching the modem off as above
didn't get things working try "spoofing" the MAC
address of the old Network Card that was previously connected
to the Cable modem.
To find this MAC address, see http://ozcableguy.com/glossary.asp#mac
Write it down and then find a section in the Router that allows
you to specify a MAC address for the WAN port and copy it there.
(Note: Some Routers allow various fiddling with MAC addresses on
LAN ports and this is not what we're looking for here. It must be
referred to as WAN or Internet and not LAN or Local.)
Switch the Cable modem and router off and then back on after a
few seconds pause and check if you're online now.
If you do decide to spoof the MAC address of a previous router or
network card, one thing you don't want to happen is for the old
router or network card to end up plugged into the same ISP at the
same time. So if you decide to sell or give away the old one, make
sure you get the new router working on its default MAC address first
(it will usually connect by itself with the default MAC address
if you just plug it in and leave it for a while).
If you're still not online go away for 30 minutes then check again.
If still no good, look up your router manufacturer's Australian
website and contact their support section. They will step you through
the settings and/or diagnose the product as faulty and give you
instructions for its repair or replacement under warranty.