I’m a current AT&T Uverse TV and Internet subscriber. Their TV service is fantastic, but their internet connection was always shoddy. My wireless connection was finicky and even my wired connections, such as my desktop, were suffering from low speeds and timeouts. For the past several months I blamed everything from my home network setup, to AT&T themselves.
It turns out that I wasn’t the only person having the same problems. It looks like Uverse subscribers who have multiple devices on their network were having problems. If you’re a Uverse TV and Internet subscriber and the only network device you have is the Residental Gateway (RG, AT&T supplied modem/router) and your Set-top-boxes (STB) then you probably aren’t having any issues. But if you’re using additional switches, routers, and access points then you probably understand what I’m going through.
Unlike the traditional cable which usually runs through coax by radio frequency or by satellite broadcast, AT&T Uverse TV runs on an IPTV system. TV content is delivered via a method of the Internet Protocol Suite. Basically, the same mechanism of how you access the internet. When the STB is turned on for viewing the device calls the RG and it delivers the content via IP multicast stream. So megabits of data are streamed from the RG to your STB while you watch TV, and the same goes for households with multiple STBs.
If you’re like me where the four ports on the RG doesn’t meet your network needs you’re likely to add a network switch, router or an access point to expand your home network. The most common method of expanding your home network is adding a switch which in turn can connect additional devices such as an Xbox, Blu-ray player, NAS, in addition to the STB. Now this is where the problem starts to happen. On that switch when the STB is turned on for TV viewing the switch will get flooded with multicast packets from the RG. Other devices will also be hit with those multicast packets and this causes those network connection issues. If you’re using a wireless router instead of a switch you’re likely to have wifi connection issues as the router is bombarded with those multicast packets.
So how can you expand your network without running into these issues?
Luckily, the AT&T RG is smart enough to know if there is an active STB attached to its ports and only stream to those ports. So a possible solution is to isolate your STBs on one port of the RG and the non-STBs devices on another port by using two switches or routers. If you’re network savvy you can buy a managed switch or a smart switch and use multiple VLANs to separate your devices.
Q: Can’t I just use an IGMP Snooping supported switch instead?
A: In theory IGMPv3 support switches should be able to prevent those unnecessary multicast packets on other ports like what the RG currently does, but from experience many of those switches work for about 10 seconds before your TV or internet stops or freezes. It seems that AT&T uses some sort of proprietary stream that can’t be captured by the IGMP Snooping, or the switches I used were too weak or dumb to handle the large amount of multicast data.
Q: I’m using my spare wireless router and I get internet access, but my TV access won’t work.
A: You probably have your wireless router connected to the RG through the WAN port. Doing this segments your home network. The router separates all devices connected to it onto a different network. The router also acts like a firewall and will allow typical internet access, but will block the multicast stream from the RG. You’ll need to set up your router to act as an access point instead.
Q: What’s the current setup are you using?
A: I have two VLANs. One of my VLANs connects a NAS, Desktop, and an access point for wifi. The other VLAN connects the STBs in my house. I’m using a Netgear GS108e with 802.1q VLANs. Port-based VLAN doesn’t seem to work.