Learn From My Pain and Know if Your NBN Provider Has PPPoE

Learn From My Pain and Know if Your NBN Provider Has PPPoE
Image: iStock

I’m currently reviewing the Eero Pro 6, a set of three mesh modems. They’re fine, I’ll have a review out soon, but I want to take the opportunity to tell you all a little story about my NBN network and PPPoE, and provide some help for anyone else experiencing a similar issue.

I upgrade my NBN plan often. Over the past two years, I’ve switched every six months (in line with entry discounts), starting with Flip, going to Aussie Broadband, then to Superloop. Last Thursday, I decided to switch to Spintel, a small brand in the broadband world that offers some pretty decent 5G and NBN plans.

Ooooh boy, did I not prepare for what I was getting into.

I’m not normally one to get into NBN horror stories. Switching as often as I have and going from NBN 25 to NBN 50 (where in the past I’ve dealt with NBN 12, ADSL 2 and 4G internet), my experience with the NBN in my HFC-serviced inner west house has been mostly good.

HFC, for context, is one of the faster types of NBN, behind Fibre to the Premises and in front of Fibre to the Curb. It’s tied to the home’s internet infrastructure and is found all throughout the inner city.

But switching to Spintel caused me a range of problems, all for reasons that I can’t really blame anyone for, but also shouldn’t have happened.

This is not a Spintel review. This was intended to be an opportunity to test the Eero wireless mesh network’s bandwidth with my VR headset without any wires on an NBN 100 service, but the day unfolded differently.

I made the call to disconnect my Superloop service. Their customer service has been great in my experience and considering my six-month discount was coming to an end I saw it as an opportunity to try out another internet provider. Superloop disconnected me within minutes of the phone call.

Then, using my phone hotspot, I set up my Spintel account and got everything ready. I was confused at first as to why Spintel wanted to know not only my modem model but also its MAC address (I’m still not clear on why Spintel needed that). I suspected something was up when the Eero didn’t appear on their dropdown menu provided. I entered it manually.

Confused as to why my service hadn’t been connected (to be fair, emails I had received up until this point from Spintel were vague) a phone call with a customer service rep revealed that I needed to upload some proof of residence/identity checks. Yeah, easy, did that.

After this, the NBN box lights went back to normal… But the Eero mesh nodes just showed an eerie red light. I was assuming that, like with Superloop and Aussie Broadband, my modems would kick back in, powered by what is called DHCP, a kind of internet delivery that automatically configures your modem against your supplied internet service.

Nope. Spintel doesn’t use DHCP, it uses PPPoE to deliver the NBN. PPPoE is a kind of internet delivery that requires you to go into the backend of the modem to configure details provided by your ISP. It’s not always the case, but is commonly so.

“Easy,” I thought, stupidly. I’ve done this before, with a Belong 4353 modem that I used to connect to Flip. No, nothing is simple anymore.

You see… The Eero Pro 6 only recently got support for PPPoE, a confusing thing to support with an update considering it’s an established form of internet delivery internationally. That’s fine. What’s not fine is that it’s bad support.

Online, you’ll read that the Eero Pro 6 requires you to configure your modem for PPPoE before you switch internet providers. A simple request. One that is severe if you get wrong.

“Please note: since this feature requires a firmware update, you may need to set up your network while it’s connected to your modem/router or router first, then update it to v6.6.1 or later,” the webpage adds.

Without doing this, I was unable to configure my internet service. Like, at all. I couldn’t even get into the back end of the Eero Pro 6 mesh network. Why?

Because it needs to be connected to the internet to access its settings.

“Go through the backend via a browser,” I hear you say. “Just type 192.168.1.1,” networking pros will say. Well… What if I told you that the Eero… For whatever reason… Doesn’t have a gateway portal. At all. None.

How do you access its settings? Through an app. There’s no requirement to be connected to its network to change its settings, so you can do so on the go, but you do this through an app. For whatever reason too, the “hard reset” button on my Mesh network modems wasn’t working either. Ugh.

Before you say that I should have switched back to my other modem to try and get it to work with this PPPoE NBN, just know that I tried this and it didn’t work either. Turns out that modem wasn’t configured for PPPoE either (previously I used it for “PPP” which is different for some reason), which I can forgive considering it’s much older than the Eero Pro 6.

So anyway, after mulling this over with two different Spintel customer service reps and five hours of fault-finding, I decided to think a little bigger. I knew that Aussie Broadband supplies internet through DHCP, which doesn’t require any backend wizardry to connect. I also knew that I could get this switched over in about an hour.

I called Aussie Broadband, switched over and within an hour my internet was fixed.

So, what did I learn from this exercise? Well, I learned that even as smart as I think I am with internet stuff, I can still be broadsided by things that shouldn’t go wrong.

So, in case you want to avoid what I got myself into, here are some steps:

  • When switching your internet provider, make sure it’s DHCP to avoid a headache.
  • If your NBN provider offers PPPoE, make sure your modem is compatible.
  • Switch your NBN provider before disconnecting your NBN service. Trust me on this.
  • Also, never be afraid to Google a problem.

Anyway, Spintel decided to not charge me for this (although still sent me a $4.45 bill for some reason) but this is simply something the Eero shouldn’t have gotten wrong. It’s also not ideal to even have to meddle with PPPoE these days for the NBN, but frankly, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have cared.