I finally got a AVM Fritz!Box WLAN 7390 modem/router to replace the Belgacom-provided BBOX-2, which gave me a few headaches and quite some frustration over the past year. I am happy to report that the Fritz works with Belgacom VDSL2, despite what Belgacom says about the mandatory use of their own broken modem. Let’s get to the real meat. Some background first.
AVM, the company
AVM is the premier xDSL modem manufacturer in Germany. Besides the ones they sell under their own brand, they do quite a lot of OEM manufacturing for telcos: 1&1, Deutsche Telekom in Germany, P&T in Luxembourg and XS4ALL in the Netherlands. XS4ALL launched earlier this year a native IPv6 service for their residential customers based on the Fritz 7340 modem, a scaled down version of the 7390.
The Fritz 7390 was first announced at CEBIT 2009. It seems that AVM suffers from the “CEBIT announcement” syndrome. At the time, the 7390 was merely vapourware, in that the actual delivery only started nearly a year later in Germany. It took them also a lot of time to deliver a firmware that actually lived up to the promises. The international version was only delivered in september 2010. It was only last December 2010 that a firmware version was released that included “full support of IPv6” (announced two years earlier) and compatibility with Belgacom’s VDSL2 network.
Yet, the AVM company is quite serious in implementing standards. For example, they are the only CPE manufacturer I know that attends RIPE meetings. The latest firmware implements DNSSEC in the local resolver, where most other CPE manufacturers could not care less.
The Fritz!Box 7390
As mentioned previously, the modem supports Belgacom’s VDSL2 network. At installation time, a wizard lets you select the right option according to your needs (Belgacom Internet or Belgacom Internet + TV). Once you have added your PPoE credentials, the box is ready to go.
The real power of the Fritz are the thousands options that allow you to customize it to your needs.
Integrated telephony has been a powerful feature of the AVM boxes over the years. This one does it again, only better. It features a built-in DECT base station. You can also place VoIP phone calls directly from an iPhone or Android phone, and use the built-in phone directory. The PABX inside the Fritz will forward the calls through PSTN or a number of VoIP providers based on the rules you set.
The support for IPv6 was the main reason I bought this modem. Here again, the Fritz 7390 delivers. It can use native IPv6 (in the unlikely case your ISP supports it) and tunnels (6to4, SixXS, and others). Screenshot
WLAN can be both on the 2.4 Ghz and the 5 Ghz bands at the same time, with different SSIDs if you like. This may be helpful in an area with a crowded WLAN environment. It can do WIFI-N, up to 300 Mbps. It makes a real difference. You can also setup a separate WLAN for the guests visiting your home, with a different SSID. Hence, you won’t have to give them the WPA2 password to your home LAN. Further, the guests will get access to the Internet, but not to the local LAN.
The Fritz can also serve as a NAS for the local network. There are two USB ports. You can attach a hard disk or a memory stick and make them available to the LAN and/or the Internet. The BBox-2 also has a USB port, but it was castrated by Belgacom. You could also attach a USB printer to the Fritz, and share it among the users. Some restrictions may apply in this case. Not all USB printers can be used this way.
Real life experience
A small gotcha to begin with: When setting up the modem for the first time, tell the setup wizard that you use an Annex-B line (aka ISDN), even if you are actually using an analog telephone line. It seems Belgacom uses Annex-B signalling for VDSL2, irrespective of the actual type of the line.
After using the Fritz!Box for two weeks, I am happy to see it is much more stable than the BBox-2. The random disconnects I experienced on the WIFI are not happenning with the Fritz. The random reboots of the BBox-2 too, obviously.
IPv6 works fine. The SixXS tunnel I used in the beginning was stable. I have now switched to native dual stack IPv4/v6 through EDPNet. The Fritz uses router advertisements to allow IPv6 autoconfiguration. This works fine with Macs, Linux and Windows boxes, as well as Android phones. It can also announce DNS servers though RA (RFC 5006).
From firmware version 84.05.21 onwards, the Fritz offers a GUI interface to change both IPv4 and IPv6 DNS servers. This is a most welcome change from previous versions. Most ISPs’ DNS servers are broken in one way or another, like those of Belgacom, and many Belgian ISPs are now forced by law to do DNS blocking for sites considered illegal.
All in all, the AVM Fritz!Box WLAN 7390 is a highly recommended CPE, worth every eurocent you paid for.
In the meantime, the newer Fritz!Box 7490 has been released and is certified for use on the Proximus VDSL2 network. You may wish to check my review here.
(Updated 30 October 2014)