Repurposing Telstra Gen 2 Smart Modems

Image credit: Mate Telecom. Sourced fromĀ  https://www.letsbemates.com.au/mate/guide-telstra-smart-modem-gen2-nbn-fttp/

From time to time when I’ve completed client call-outs I end up with old equipment that I’ll either send to eWaste (which is a electronics recycling service) or I may refurbish the device in question and later use it for my own purposes or sell on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, et al.

So it just so happens that I acquired not one but two Telstra Smart Modems from a client. The modem looks like the one pictured: a nice sleek looking white rectangular chassis with a LED light at the bottom telling you what’s going on. Don’t get this confused with the Telstra Gen3 Smart Modem, which is a corporate black coloured chunky cube thing.

The first modem was updated to what Telstra calls the “Blue Egypt” firmware, which is version 20.3. The operating system they both use is a heavily modified version of DD-WRT/OpenWRT. The second modem is using the “Champagne” (version 18-something) firmware. No, it won’t pour you a drink in case you’re wondering.

The hardware is quite powerful for a modem and Telstra must have a huge stash of these as literally all the clients I’ve been to seem to have more than one. Either that or Telstra is literally popping them out of their butt. There’s also two versions of the unit, the first unit is Technicolor, while the other version is Arcadyan or another company. Both these units are the Techicolor variant.

The units came with SIM cards that are attached to the client that supplied me the units. So, in the best interest of the client, I ejected their SIM cards and played around with the units on my own Boost SIM.

When the first unit booted, it was already configured with some SIP account data from the client. I could see the modem attempting to register onto the Telstra VoIP service. A minute later, it seems that Telstra noticed that the replacement modem had just been powered up and nuked the SIP account configuration. Fine by me.

Since these units are Telstra branded, it’s not uncommon to have a backdoor into the router to push configurations and system updates. These updates are usually pushed via the TR069 protocol. However, I usually do not recommend using ISP equipment – one example is that they have “accidentally” bricked some devices in the past.

Telstra’s customer support has a lot to be desired. That’s no joke, Telstra doesn’t give a shit about the customer from what I’ve experienced despite them recently changing their tune. Telstra negativity aside, unfortunately it seems that the second modem is having issues with it’s 4G module right now as it’s not detecting a mobile network.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough. Here’s what I can tell you if you want to refurbish a Telstra modem for shits and giggles:

  1. These modems can be used with different providers. However, it’s up to your provider to tell you if they use PPPoE (PPP over Ethernet) for your internet service or IPoE (IP over Ethernet).
  2. If your ISP uses a WAN connection – as in, simply plug an Ethernet cable from a NBN device to the router, such as cable modem or whatnot – then it’s literally plug and play.
  3. If you’re using a VDSL based service then you may have some difficulty, but since my connection uses IPoE and DHCP, I have no major issues.
  4. The modems will auto update their firmware when plugged in and able to access the internet. The modem that was running the version 18-something firmware was automatically updated to firmware version 20.3.
  5. You can use a different SIM card in the modem, however it must use the Telstra network. For example, my Optus SIM card caused the router to report an error with the 4G module (SIM Lock/Network Lock), however my Boost SIM was working fine. YMMV.
  6. If you’re using your own SIM card, you will probably need to modify the APN settings to stop it using “telstra.internet” or “telstra.hybrid”. I had to create a new profile and set the APN to “internet” and set the wwan interface to use that instead of the “default” APN.
  7. Don’t expect to be able to flex much in the administration panel – a lot of the juicy settings you’d see from DD-WRT or OpenWRT have been purposefully removed or hidden. You can potentially exploit and gain root access on the unit itself but YMMV. Telstra will probably be watching too…
  8. If you do buy a used one, power it up but do not connect it to the internet. Press and hold the reset button until the front light starts going cycling through the rainbow.
  9. Here’s an unofficial instruction manual, because Telstra never really included one in the first place.

Thanks for reading and as always, I hope you learned something. Take care.

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