About DSL modem lights - SpeedTouch modems
The operational status of your DSL modem is usually indicated by lights (LEDs). Different modem models vary in detail, of course, but typically they have lights to indicate power, the status and activity of the DSL line, and the status and activity of connections to your computer, whether by ethernet or by wireless.
For example, Thomson 585 modems have five lights on the front (Power, Ethernet, WLAN, DSL and Internet) and four lights on the back, which show the status of each of the four ethernet ports.
Information is communicated by the colour of the lights and whether they are steady or flashing. Activity on a line is often indicated by flickering lights, when the line is active.
Here's a summary of how to read the lights of a Thomson 585 v7 (other models are similar):
The power light should be steady green. If it is unlit, there is a power problem or the unit is broken. Check that the modem is plugged in and switched on.
If the power light is red or amber, the unit has discovered a problem with its hardware or software. Try power cycling the unit, by unplugging the unit from the power and disconnecting it from all cables, waiting more than 5 seconds (for capacitors to discharge) and then connecting it to power again. If the power light goes green, then connect cables. Otherwise, if the red or amber Power light persists, the unit is most likely broken and will have to be replaced.
The ethernet light should be green (steady or flickering), as long as there is at least one ethernet cable connected to a working computer. A green light indicates that ethernet communication is possible. Ethernet traffic is indicated by flickering of the light.
To check individual cables, most SpeedTouch modems have green LEDs at the back of the modem were the ethernet cables plug in. The LED there will be green (and flicker with activity) if ethernet is active on that particular cable.
Note: If you are having problems and find any of those back-side ethernet LEDs flashing at a steady rate (on-off-on-off...), it indicates a hardware problem that requires service, but try power-cycling just in case that resolves it.
WLAN (Wireless) light
The WLAN light flashes to indicate wireless activity. The colour of the light indicates the security mode of the wireless service: green is highest security, using WPA encryption; amber is medium security, using WEP; and red indicates no security (anyone can use your wireless without providing a password). The light is unlit if wireless is disabled (turned off).
For information about configuring wireless and enabling/disabling it, please consult the modem manual for your unit.
Broadband (DSL) light
The Broadband light should become steady green within a few minutes after power-up or restart, indicating that the unit has detected a DSL signal and is able to synchronize with it. It indicates that the unit is in sync.
During the process of obtaining DSL synchronization, the Broadband light will flash green. If it flashes indefinitely, there is a problem.
If you previously had a working connection and nothing has changed at your location (eg., no new devices attached to your phone line), try power cycling your modem (see above). If that doesn't work, likely it's an external problem and it is best to wait 10 minutes and see if it clears up. Sometimes the modem needs to be power-cycled for it to notice a line that has returned to service and to connect to it.
If you are installing the modem for the first time, here are possible solutions:
- Make sure there is no filter on the line that connects your modem to the phone line. The modem must be plugged directly into the phone line.
- Make sure all other devices, including telephones, answering machines, fax machines and security alarms at your location are connected through DSL line filters.
- If problems persist, try temporarily disconnecting all other devices from your phone line as a phone or even a filter that is failing can cause interference.
If you can find a working internet connection (by dial-up, at a friend's home or at an office or library), you can check online with NCF to see if anyone else is experiencing problems. If not, it is best to send a problem report to the NCF office for further action.
The internet light is steady green when the Central Office has accepted your modem's login and password and is ready to provide internet service via DSL to your modem. If the light remains red or unlit, there is a problem.
If your unit was able to log in earlier and you have not made any changes, a red light likely means that there is a temporary network problem (at the Central Office or NCF) making it temporarily impossible to check your login and password. In this case it is best to just wait for the problem to be fixed. You may need to power-cycle or restart your modem for it to notice that service has been restored. If you can get online elsewhere (by dial-up, at a friend's home or at an office or library), you can check the NCF web site to see if others are experiencing problems, and if not, report the problem, although network-wide problems are almost always noticed quickly.
If you are installing your modem for the first time and the DSL light is green but the Internet light is red, likely your unit hasn't been configured with a correct login and password. Check the configuration instructions for information about configuring.
Beyond the lights
Lights can indicate only a small amount of information about your modem. To learn more about what your modem is doing, you can view your DSL usage log (this link is also available from the NCF StartPage, under 'Internet Access'). Often the pattern of connect/disconnects will reveal more information.
It is also possible to log into your modem (there is a computer with a UNIX operating system in there) using a web browser, and then view its event log. For information about the modem's event log, consult the modem manual for your modem model.
Background information: Stages of DSL Connection-Making
This page explains how a DSL modem connects to the internet.
After powering up, a DSL modem typically goes through these stages:
- DSL sync
Upon power-up, a modem typically performs tests to detect proper operation of its hardware and to detect problems in its software and data. This stage usually takes only a few seconds.
The first stage of connecting to the internet is to obtain a 'link level' DSL connection to the Central Office or DSLAM. Once established, the modem will use this connection to carry internet traffic.
Obtaining and maintaining a good DSL connection to the Central Office or DSLAM is crucial to good performance. To maximize performance, the modem tries to sense the quality of your phone line and adapt to conditions. The most basic requirement is obtaining DSL synchronization (detecting and locking onto the DSL signal).
Things that can go wrong at this stage, in order of most likely first, include:
- no connection to the phone line
- electrical noise from other devices on your phone line
- low power signal caused by being far from the Central Office or DSLAM
- electrical noise on the line from sources outside your location
- problems at the Central Office or DSLAM.
Once a DSL connection has been made with the Central Office or DSLAM, it can be used by the modem to talk with the NCF authentication server. This requires your modem to identify itself with a login and password (for security and billing purposes). Your modem can do the authentication for you but of course it must have been programmed with the correct information.
The most common problems at this stage include:
- not having correct login and password information programmed into your modem
- temporary network problems that prevent the authentication server from confirming the log-in information that your modem provides to it.
Finally, when the DSL connection is up, your modem has been authenticated and granted access, it tells your computer that it is ready. Your computer can then send and receive information from the internet. Requests go from your computer to your modem (via ethernet cable or wirelessly), then from your modem to the network (via your phone line), then over the network to whichever web site computer you specified.
Connecting to your modem
Your modem also looks for connections to your computer(s) via its ethernet ports or, if equipped and enabled, via wireless. The establishment of these links goes through similar stages as described above for DSL. Ethernet connections are usually quite reliable and trouble-free, but wireless connections can suffer from interference with other wireless signals. There are only eleven channels allocated for wireless use in Canada and in most urban locations, especially in apartment buildings or townhouse complexes, there can be twenty or more networks within range of your computer, which can make interference hard to avoid. For more information see About wireless.
Once you have a 'link level' connection to your modem, you can use a web browser to communicate with the computer inside the modem, just as if it were a web site on the internet.