Three years ago, I got the AVM Fritz!Box 7390, which has been serving me well over the time. However, with Belgacom announcing the deployment of VDSL2 vectoring this year, my trusted Fritz!Box would not be accepted by the incumbent and network operator, despite its proven VDSL2 vectoring compatibility. I was left with the perspective to place one of Belgacom’s BBoxes in front of my Fritz!Box. That would have meant two devices for one Internet connection. An ergonomic and ecological nonsense.
Not so anymore. Enter the Fritz!Box 7490. AVM is the first CPE manufacturer that went through the tough process of getting some its devices certified for Belgacom’s VDSL2 network. The 7490 is one. The other being the 7360. Whether Belgacom’s certification process is justified or not is another debate. Suffice to say that only certified devices are assigned a VDSL2 connection on Belgacom’s network. Non-certified ones are downgraded to a low ADSL speed.
If you have been using Fritz!Boxes in the past, this one will look very familiar, both for its external design and its web interface. Hence, rather than restating the obvious you read elsewhere, let’s have a look at what is different.
VDSL2 Vectoring compliance
Up to now, the only certified VDSL2-vectoring friendly or capable modems in Belgium were Belgacom’s own BBox-2 and BBox-3 in various incarnations, and their Sagem clones. All seem to have a rather buggy firmware at this time, in addition to being clearly tailored to Belgacom’s marketing needs.
As mentioned above, AVM now has two devices certified by Belgacom, this one being one of them. This is one of the major reason to buy this device if you do not want to use Belgacom’s Trabants and would rather settle for a BMW.
The first time you turn the 7490 on, the setup wizard will ask you which country you are living in and adjust itself to the specificies of the country. The relevant firmware version is downloaded later in the setup process. In the case of Belgium, there is no possibility to upgrade the firmware to a new generic (or beta) version without losing Belgacom-compliance. This is rather unfortunate, and especially worrisome in case there would be a major security bug that needs to be fixed rapidly. This is due to Belgacom’s lengthy process for certifying new versions. (Note that Belgacom’s own BBoxes get updated several times a year.Talk about field level playing)
In addition to the features already present in the older 7390, some additional ones are worth noting. The 7490 supports Wireless AC with up to 450 Mbit/s in the 2.4 Ghz band and even 1300 Mbit/s in the 5 Ghz band. The latter may come in handy if you live in an area with a lot of (mostly 2.4 Ghz) WIFI networks.
The 7490 also boasts more flash memory for its internal usage than its predecessor. This allows AVM to add additional features to the box with sacrificing others. For example, the latest iteration of the 7390 firmware removed the support for the SMB sharing due to the shortage of flash memory. No more so with the 7490. AVM has a long tradition to continuously improve its firmware. Do expect new features to be added in the future, firmware certification permitting. See, for example, what is currently being tested in the Beta version.
With all the possibilities of the Fritz!Box 7490 regarding Internet, telephony and home networking, it is hard to think of a missing feature. Nothing being perfect in this world, one such missing feature for the Belgian market would be the so-called “full routing mode”. Right now, the Fritz!Boxes only offer the IPTV signal on two dedicated wired Ethernet connections. It would be helpful to have the IPTV signal available on all connections, including WIFI. According to AVM, this feature is already deployed in other markets, like Luxembourg. However, the relevant information for Belgium is not being provided to them. This is competition, the Belgacom way.
As can be expected from AVM, the modem is stable. My previous 7390 never required a reboot, except for firmware upgrades. After using the 7490 for a few days, I am confident it will perform flawlessly also. The Fritz!Box has a nice function which allows one to import the settings of another Fritz!Box. This worked nicely. In my case though, the settings related to IPv6 were not recovered (with the 6.04 stock firmware at least). According to AVM, this should be fixed in future versions of the firmware. I also needed to re-register my DECT phones, which makes sense since they were still expecting the former Fritz!Box.
My Internet connection not being upgraded to VDSL vectoring, I could not test its performance in this context. I will update my post if and when it finally happens (Belgacom does not currently vectorise the 8d profiles). Regarding the performance in plain VDSL context, I did not notice any change compared to my previous 7390. This was expected. VDSL performance is mainly dependent on elements outside the device manufacturer’s control: PSTN line length, copper quality, telco policies, etc.
Update 5 Aug 2014: Belgacom has now activated VDSL vectoring in my area. It did not change anything for me, as I am too far from the street cabinet. However, I was not downgraded, which demonstrates that the Fritz!Box is indeed certified by Belgacom.
All in all, this Fritz!Box 7490 is worth every Euro. Surely, it may look more expensive that the average ISP-provided modem, but they don’t play in the same league. If you were to add the cost of a basic modem, a good home router, a DECT station and an IP-based PBX, the Fritz!Box is actually cheaper than all those components bought separately, and consumes less electrical power. So, do our planet a favour and prefer an integrated box, with a consistent interface.