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Efficient has recently added a "Dial Backup" function to their 5800 series routers. This function allows the router to connect to the Internet via a modem when the primary DSL connection is down. It requires the addition of a conventional "smart" modem attached to the "Console" port on the router. You must also have a dial-up account that the modem can use and, of course, a working "POTS" phone line for the modem to dial out on. You can use the same phone line that is used for the DSL service, but for greatest reliability a different phone line should be used. (The documentation indicates that the router can also dial out over an ISDN circuit. This procedure does not address that alternative).
Once the router and modem are installed and configured, all users connected to the router will continue to have access to the Internet when the primary DSL circuit is out of service. Of course, the bandwidth of the connection will be reduced to that of the dial-up connection, but in most cases a slow Internet connection is better than no connection at all. The dial-up connection will be assigned a dynamic IP address, so in-bound access to servers or other services which depend upon a static IP address will not be possible while in the dial-up mode.
Warnings and caveats:
1. This procedure has been tested using an Efficient Speedstream 5861 router with part number 120-5861-005 in an Ameritech environment (testing was done in Wisconsin). The modem used for the test was a 3COM/US Robotics external 56K FaxModem. Changes to the procedure may be needed for other equipment and/or service providers.
2. The Dial Backup feature requires that the router be equipped with a version 5.0 or above kernel. Ameritech does not support that kernel at this time. The kernel being used is provided by Efficient, and Efficient MIGHT be willing to assist you in the event of a problem with the new kernel, but ultimately you are on your own. Do not make these changes unless you are confident that you can resolve any router-related problems on your own and/or reload the standard kernel prior to requesting support from Ameritech or Efficient.
3. Installing a kernel update is potentially dangerous to the health of your router and if done incorrectly your router may be rendered inoperable. Again, do not proceed with these changes unless you are confident that you can resolve any router-related problems on your own.
4. The new kernel does not support SNMP and any application dependent upon that service will no longer function after the upgrade. This includes the "Configuration Manager" and "Port Monitor" programs provided with the router. A new web-based interface will replace some of the functions of those programs.
5. When the configuration is complete, the console port's function will be changed to allow it to control the modem. You will no longer be able to use the port to access the console functions. A telnet session will be required to access the command line for configuration and monitoring purposes.
6. During a DSL outage, the modem's unattended automatic dialing can result in a huge number of phone calls and/or extremely long phone calls being placed. Make sure that the number being dialed is local and that you are prepared to pay for any message unit/time usage/long distance charges that may result!
1. Obtain the updated kernel from Efficient's web site. The current link is:
The current file (version 5.3.2, 10/14/02) is 5861005-5320.ZIP. You should also open and print the "Install Instructions (PDF)" on the same page.
2. Make sure you know your DSL account's login name and password, your router's security word, the IP address of your router, and have a list of any customizations that you have previously made to the router's configuration.
3. Install the new kernel using the instructions provided by Efficient. These are in the PDF file that you printed in step 1.
4. Once you are back on-line with the new kernel, verify that you can access the new web-based configuration screens by browsing to:
Substitute your router's IP address if it is different than the default 192.168.254.254. You should receive a request for a user name and password. Enter "login" (without the quotation marks) as the user name, and your router's security word as the password. If all is well, you will be presented with a screen with a list of menu items on the left and a "Router Information" display on the right.
5. Select the menu item to "Set Dial Backup". You will be prompted for a user name, password, phone number, and (optional) alternate phone number. This is the information for your dial-up account and will be used by the router to identify itself when dialing out through the modem. Enter this information and be sure to check the "Enable Dial Backup" button, then click on "OK" to continue to the second Dial Backup configuration screen.
[If you are an Ameritech DSL customer, your DSL package includes dial-up access at no additional charge. Your logon name and password are the same as those you use for your DSL logon. You can get a list of local dial-up phone numbers by logging on to the "Member Services" area of www.ameritech.net and then selecting "Access Numbers". Select the "Access Numbers and Server Settings" option and then the link to "list of dial-up locations". Pick a number that will be a local call for the modem attached to the router.]
6. The second Dial Backup configuration screen will ask you for configuration parameters for the dial-up function. For testing purposes, set the "Failover to backup after connection is lost for:" value to 1 minute and the "Retry DSL after DSL connection has been lost for" value to 2 minutes. Make sure the "Use DNS" box is checked. Leave all of the other fields set to the defaults. Select "Save and Reboot" and the router will save the dial backup configuration and then restart.
7. Now all that remains is the installation of the modem. If you are using a 3COM/US Robotics modem, verify that the dip switches are set to the factory defaults (1, 2, 4, 6 & 7 UP and 3, 5 & 8 DOWN). Connect a cable (see accompanying post for construction details) between the "Console" port on the Efficient router and the RS232 port on the USR modem. Connect a phone line from the "wall" jack on the modem to the phone line which you will be using for dialing out. Power up the modem.
8. The dial backup should now be functional. Test it by disconnecting the DSL phone line from the router. Wait for one minute and then try to browse to an Internet site. The modem should wake up, dial out, and log in. Once that has occurred, you should be able to browse the Internet as usual (although more slowly than normal).
9. Plug the DSL phone line back in. Within two minutes after the link is re-established, the modem should disconnect and you should be able to access the Internet as usual through the DSL circuit.
10. Go back into the second dial backup configuration screen (step 6 above) and reset the two timing values to your preferred values. The defaults are 3 minutes ("Failover to backup") and 30 minutes "Retry DSL".
A) Although it is not apparent from the documentation, the modem connection appears to be maintained only "on demand". If no process is attempting to access the Internet the modem connection will be dropped after approximately 2 minutes. A subsequent access to the Internet will cause the modem to dial out again.
B) It is also possible to configure dial backup using the command line interface. Refer to the documentation for details. In particular, the "System List" command is helpful since it lists the dial backup configuration information and shows the time remaining if a count-down is in progress.
C) A cable kit to connect a modem to the 5861 router is available from Efficient. Their part number is 120-0501-001 priced at $60 plus $14 shipping. If you prefer to build your own, instructions are provided in an accompanying post.
Good Luck! (And thanks to the other DSL Reports users who assisted me with this project).