Router - EchoLife HG612

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What is it?

The Huawei EchoLife HG612 was one of the two modems (the other being the ECI B-Focus) which used to installed by BT Openreach with new VDSL installations.

It has proven to be a very reliable modem and, when upgraded to the latest unofficial firmware (also described as "unlocked"), provides both a web and telnet interface exposing a lot of statistics and information about your DSL connection. The official firmware blocks access to these interfaces - hence the term "unlocking".

It was provided by BT for use as a VDSL modem, but can equally well be used for ADSL connections. It can support a 1500 MTU in both modes.

Note that whilst BT Openreach initially matched the manufacturer of the modem to the manufacturer of the equipment in your local VDSL cabinet (DSLAM), this practice stopped in 2013 and modems were provided randomly.

The HG612 has two advantages compared to the ECI modem - it can easily be unlocked (providing access to the configuration interfaces), and it supports G.INP, a recent improvement to BT's VDSL service.

Where and how to buy

The only downside to the HG612 is the lack of any official supplier. There are no known sources to purchase new HG612s - it can only be purchased second-hand, with eBay being the main source.

With a little patience you can pick one up in an auction for as little as £5 or if you want to "buy it now", expect to pay around £25-£30 (in February 2017).

Note that there have been various hardware revisions of the HG612, with revisions other than the "3B" being susceptible to overheating or other hardware faults. It is therefore recommended that you only buy a 3B.

This hardware revision is displayed in large letters on a sticker on the base of the modem - most ebay auctions will include a photo of this label for you to check. If the item you're looking at doesn't, then move onto another.

In addition to the obvious "HG612" or "HG612 3B" search terms, cheap auctions can often be found by simply searching for the more generic "openreach modem", and then checking the photos to see the model (i.e. that it is not the ECI variety) and hardware revision - not all sellers will use the "HG612" model number in the title of their listing.

As you will see in the next step, "unlocking" the HG612 is relatively trivial, so there is little value in paying the premium some ebay sellers attempt to charge for "unlocked" versions of the modem - all modems can be easily unlocked and it is always recommended to upload the latest firmware version yourself before you use it.

Update to latest unlocked firmware

The first thing to do when you get the HG612 is to update it to the latest unlocked version of the firmware. More detailed instructions can be found here - http://www.kitz.co.uk/routers/hg612hacking.htm

In summary, the required file is:

bcm96368MVWG_fs_kernel_HG612V100R001C01B030SP08_webgui

which can be downloaded from the "B030SP08" folder here: https://mega.nz/#F!LdJFDIJL!e_E1twsIg2kTet8mPjrb4w

To upgrade to this firmware, do the following:

  • With the HG612 powered off, connect a cable between the LAN2 port (you may need to remove the "not in use" sticker) and the ethernet port on your computer.
  • Configure your computer's ethernet port with the IP address 192.168.1.100 and subnet mask 255.255.255.0.
  • Hold down the reset button on the back of the HG612 whilst inserting the power cable. Keep the reset button held for about 5-10 seconds after powering up.
  • After about 10 seconds you should be able to access the HG612's "Update Software" web page at the address http://192.168.1.1
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to upload the latest firmware.

After this process has completed you should be able to log into the main web interface at the same http://192.168.1.1 address. The default username and password are "admin" and "admin".

Why do I need to connect a cable directly?

The CFE bootloader does not initialise Ethernet with a MAC address, so the device thinks it has the MAC address 00:00:00:00:00:00.

Packets with this source MAC address will be dropped by:

  • Network switches
  • Any 802.1D bridges on your computer

This will make it impossible to communicate with the modem.

How to connect to your router

There are two ways you can connect the HG612 to your router and maintain access the web/telnet interfaces.

In both methods, you first need to connect LAN1 on the HG612 to the "WAN" ethernet interface on your router. This is the connection over which the router will make the PPPoE connection.

Access with a second cable over LAN2

In its default configuration, the HG612 has the IP address 192.168.1.1 on its LAN2 port. To allow access to the HG612 over its LAN2 port from any device on your network, you need to do the following:

  • Change the HG612's IP address (under "Basic -> LAN" in the web interface) to be an unused address on your LAN. e.g. if your LAN is 192.168.1.0/24, with your router using 192.168.1.1 you could change the HG612 to use 192.168.1.2.
  • Connect a cable between the LAN2 port on the HG612 and your LAN switch (or an unused LAN port on your router).

You should now be able to access the HG612 from any device on your LAN by visiting http://192.168.1.2

Access over the LAN1/WAN cable

A more elegant solution is to enable access to the HG612 over the existing connection between LAN1 and the WAN port on your router.

This is done as follows:

  • In your router, configure the WAN interface with a private (RFC1918) address in a different subnet to your main LAN. e.g. if your main LAN is 192.168.1.0/24 then configure the WAN interface with the address 192.168.2.1/24
  • Change the HG612's IP address (under "Basic -> "LAN" in the web interface) to be any address in that second subnet - e.g. 192.168.2.2/24
  • Under "Basic -> WAN" on the HG612, ensure both "Port binding:" checkboxes are unticked and press the Submit button to save the change. This step enables LAN access via LAN1.

At this point, your router knows where to send packets from devices on your main LAN to the HG612, but the HG612 doesn't know where to route responses (it can't be configured to have a default route via your router). To fix this, do the following:

  • Add a static route ("Advanced -> Routing" in the HG612's web interface) from the HG612 back to your main LAN. e.g. if your LAN is 192.168.1.0/24 and the router's WAN interface is 192.168.2.1 then you would create the following route:
Destination network address: 192.168.1.0
Subnet mask: 255.255.255.0
Default gateway: 192.168.2.1 (remember to also tick the checkbox)
Interface: LAN/br0

You should now be able to access the HG612's web and telnet interfaces from any device on your LAN, over the WAN/LAN1 cable. Note that access (with the new IP address) remains possible over LAN2.

VDSL Configuration

In its default state, the HG612 is configured for use with UK VDSL connections - nothing needs to be changed.

Note that the modem is configured with TR-069 support, which if enabled allows them to access the modem remotely. You should check that this is disabled in the "Basic -> WAN" settings page. Click on the "TR069_INTERNET" row in the table at the top of the page and ensure the "Enabled" checkbox is unticked (this should be the default with the unofficial firmware).

ADSL Configuration

To change the HG612 to act as an ADSL modem, the following configuration is necessary;

  • Under "Basic -> DSL" ensure "ALL" is ticked.
  • Under "Basic -> ATM" create a new interface with the following settings:
VPI/VCI: 0/38
DSL Latency: Path0
DSL Link Type: EoA
Encapsulation mode: VCMUX
Service Type: UBR Without PCR
  • Under "Basic -> WAN":

Remove all existing WAN connections and create a new one as follows:

Layer2 interface: atm1(0_0_38)
WAN connection: Enabled
Service list: INTERNET
Port binding: None (untick both checkboxes)
Connection mode: Bridge
Bridge type: PPPoE_Bridged
  • All the checkboxes after "Bridge type:" should be unticked.

How to access statistics

In addition to the information available in the webui, more detailed statistics can be accessed via the telnet interface.

To do this, connect to the HG612's IP address with telnet and log inwith the admin/admin username and password.

You should now see an ATP> prompt. Type sh to access the busybox shell.

The main command to use is "xdslcmd". Type this command without any parameters for usage information. The main command is:

xdslcmd info --stats

Further information

Lots of information on this modem is available here: