Getting what you want out of an Elisa Kotiboksi

We moved into a new home this month, and had to arrange a few Finnish home service providers for the first time. Our last home was university housing, which provided all utilities and internet access, so we hadn't crossed this barrier before. Our new place didn't have a land-line phone, and had just missed out on the fiber being rolled out in the area, so we were left with Cable broadband as our only option. Now, conventional wisdom is that Finland is crap, and that one should stick with DSL, but lacking the option (and not being entirely convinced about cable's suck-ness) we went for a cable package from Saunalahti. I placed the order online, and on the date that I had requested the service begin, a package arrived containing a broadband router and a few other items. I quickly set up the router, which is Elisa branded and is actually quite a powerful piece of kit. It's got a cable modem onboard, a DSL modem, 4x gigabit ethernet ports and is packing wireless N. Excellent, thought I. That is until I got the connection up, and ran a speed test, and received dismal results. I was paying for 10Mbps up and 1Mbps down, and I was getting around 2 down and very little up. I ruefully thought of my Finnish friends who had tried to convince me away from cable. But refusing to be beaten, I figured there might be some config settings in the router that I could tweak.

And this is where Elisa has done one of the strangest things I've ever come across from an internet provider. All of the settings of this otherwise powerful router are completely locked down, and are only configurable by logging into your account with Elisa/Saunalahti, and going to the "configure my router" page. Here you have a number of settings that are changeable, such as the SSID, the passcode, and a few other core details. Read: very little customisability. They've given you this great box, and then forbidden you from touching it.

So I said, screw you Elisa. The only setting that was exposed through the web address of the router was whether it was running as a router, or simply a bridge (connecting the cable to an upstream router). I quickly got out my Netgear router and connected it to the Elisa Kotiboksi in bridge mode, and it worked as expected. At this point, I decided that I had enough routers in the home to risk installing DD-WRT, so I went ahead and did that on the Netgear (3300) and it worked like a charm. I reconnected everything to the Elisa box, and ran another speed test: 11Mpbs down, and 1.1Mbps up. What do you know?!

The skeptics among you will say that cable speeds vary throughout the day based on your neighbourhood's residents habits. But I ran these tests, from both setups, over a period of 24 hours on a weekday, and saw very little fluctuation.

Our new house has CAT5 cable in the walls, but strangely only one room has the cable outlet beside the CAT5 outlet. This room wouldn't work for the modem, so I used another and tidily ran the cables under a bed. I was then able to nicely fit my Netgear router into the junction box for the coax and CAT5. The only missing piece was that the stupid Elisa box was still broadcasting a wireless signal. Naturally I could just ignore it... but one doesn't want to ignore these things. I trolled through every setting I could find, and there was no option to just turn it off. So as anyone in my situation would surely do, I pried the case open and took a look around. Conveniently attached to the main circuit board was an add-in card. I figured it couldn't hurt to pop it out, and a few seconds later I had the box booted up again minus the add-in card. Low and behold, everything worked as before, but there was no network being broadcast! The Elisa Kotiboksi is now sitting quietly under a bed, not bothering anyone. Least of all me.