Asus QoS & other help for MagicJack VOIP voice quality/issues/config/speeds?

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SR-71

Occasional Visitor
I'm hoping someone can help with some ideas and explanations for me, especially around both QoS and "opening ports" (MagicJack support's term -- using MJ throughout to refer to it).

A month ago I ported my home phone # from a Comcast Triple Package, cut the cord, and have been having some very strange issues with bad MJ calls, dropped pickups, and voice quality. (Exceedingly frustrating.)

Questions:
  1. From my setup and issues below, what would be suggested UL and DL bandwidth settings in the Adaptive QoS to optimize them? (Right now, I'm giving up some DL speed to increase the quality of my MJ calls, and would like to see if I can get some of it back without degrading VOIP).
  2. I'm very concerned about opening ports to the internet (UDP 5060-5070, etc.) from a security standpoint -- and MJ support has confused many people with how they have provided/phrased this advice (given at the very bottom below)
  3. Any ideas on further optimizing the MJ call quality and eliminating the problems -- ideally without increasing vulnerabilities
I'm techie enough to try all this out and play around with it, but I don't know the nuances of the impact of setting the QoS bandwidth ranges, and some of the finer points. This is new territory for me, so would very much appreciate some help understanding this and perhaps some additional suggestions.

I just set up "Adaptive QoS" and prioritzed as follows under "Custom", but need help understanding the effect of the UL and DL bandwidth settings, which I manually set for 10 and 400 respectively:
  1. "Work-From-Home" (which includes VOIP and video calls like Zoom and Skype) as the highest priority
  2. "Video and Audio Streaming" (for our Entertainment)
  3. "Web Surfing"
  4. "Learn-From-Home"
  5. "File Transferring"
  6. "Gaming" (not doing any real-time online gaming here, just local gaming)
  7. "Others"
Last night I also did the following:
  • Assigned the MJ device a static IP address outside the DHCP range in the router
  • Disabled the SIP passthrough under WAN-NAT Passthrough per MJ's tech support
  • Since I had to agree to the TrendMicro terms to enable Adaptive QoS, I also enabled the AiProtection features (might as well get the enhanced protection if I have to give up some privacy in the process)
  • Note: I had previously disabled the "DoS protection" weeks ago under the firewall settings as I had read it can interfere with VOIP on the inbound voice quality side (not thrilled to reduce my protection, but had to try it).

So while I'm hearing improvement on MJ calls today (yes!), my new DL speed is now maxing out around 360mbps when I typically got anywhere between 380-460 (400 and up was very typical). Did I set the range at less than optimal above (10/400)? Should I change it to go either higher or lower in either direction for better optimization?

Home Setup:
  • Bought a new MagicJack Home within the past year or so, only recently set it up and connected directly via ethernet on Asus RT-AX3000.
  • ISP Plan: Comcast 400/10 (typically got 400-460mbps DL and 11.5-11.8 mbps UL on Speedtest.net before enabling Adaptive QoS).
  • Modem: Brand new Arris SB8200 (Docsis 3.1, Broadcom chipset)
  • Router: New Asus RT-AX3000 bought less than a year ago

Also: Zero packet loss on multiple tests on packetlosstest.com across the board. My bufferbloat tests on DSLreports.com consistently rank me as A/A+ overall in 2 categories, with only the odd occasional "B" under Bufferbloat (maybe 25-33% of the tests, all the rest are "A" for that).

Perhaps the only connection concern is that my new modem's UL power levels on the 4 UL channels ranges from 42-44, and Arris' specs state a minimum of 45 is needed. However, I've had Comcast out to take a look, had a long conversation with him, he found nothing amiss, and I've had no other problems outside of these VOIP issues.

Issues encountered with MagicJack before I made changes in the Asus Router last night:
Numerous people at the other end of my calls reported very noticeable choppiness (like syllables dropping out of my words) -- sometimes it was intermittent, but mostly it kept happening throughout our conversations. On my end, their voice quality ranged from pretty clear to somewhat muffled or lower volume or with background static, but with no choppiness listening on my end. A number of calls would ring only once and as soon as I tried to pick up at home, the call dropped. I couldn't even call my wife from the store on multiple attempts several nights ago, as she couldn't pick up the call on the home phone.

Today, my family member in another state said that my calls (we did two) sounded much, much better. The choppiness was gone on their end, but that there was a slight scratchiness creeping into it on their end as the calls progressed. On my end of the call, the first call was very clear (they called me), and the second (I called them) sounded more muffled and the volume dropped by at least 40%. Still, these were far better results than from many test calls between us yesterday. So while it's improved, I'd like to get better results.

That suggests to me that it might be more of a problem on the upload side, especially given the meager Comcast UL speed (I've complained to them repeatedly that they need to increase their UL speed as the main limiting factor of their service) and I'm not sure about the UL power levels (explained above).

Yesterday I engaged MagicJack's tech support chat with two different reps who took me through their support/troubleshooting script. I tried two different USB power adapters (1-2 amps), had them "refresh" the MJ on their end twice, and updated the MJ firmware myself via my laptop and no change whatsoever: had the same crappy results.

My Speedtest.net results typically ranged as I stated above, with Ping/latency around 26ms to a test server within 20 miles or so. Jitter was just a hair over 1% in some cases, all of which I believe is very good. Both MJ support reps told me that the MJ requirements are:

  • Latency/Ping should be less than 25ms
  • Download speed should be greater than 5mbps
  • Upload speed should be greater than 3mpbs
  • Packet Loss should be 0%

Now here's where MJ tech support began to confuse me. When the packetlosstest.com was run, it connected to a Georgia server (very far from my home state), and the ping latency was 39ms, which seemed reasonable to me given the increased distance. Both MJ support techs latched on to that single latency value as disqualifying me from receiving further support until I talked to my ISP to have them open UDP ports 5060-5070 and disable the SIP ALG in my "modem/router". Their only remedy after that was to replace the MJ device. I explained multiple times I have separate devices so to which were they referring? Both gave me very evasive answers and said that "only my ISP can do that" -- which sounds like a complete cop-out to me to pass the buck. I've googled and found other guidance online that this meant turning on port forwarding and disabling the SIP passthrough in my router settings, which makes more sense to me. My ISP is not likely going to give me any support on my privately-owned router and modem, nor would I want them to open ports on their end that I can't control.

I am HIGHLY concerned about opening ANY ports to the internet (creating cybersec vulnerabilities) at either my router or even at the ISP level. I have two other family members in two other homes who each use a MagicJack without ANY of my problems, both using much older networking equipment than mine, and neither had to make these proposed changes. (They might have better UL speeds through their ISP, though, just to be fair in my assessment.)

For a test, I created two port forwarding rules in my AX3000 and enabled port forwarding for a short while:
UDP ports 5060-5070 routed to the MJ IP device's static IP (for signaling/messaging)
UDP ports 10000-65535 routed to the MJ IP device's static IP (for the calls) -- found this suggestion in an online site/video. The huge port range is probably overkill, but I figure it wouldn't limit the test.

I then called the "echo call" service number, 909-390-0003, which echoes your audio back to you, and it was still very very choppy, so I turned off port forwarding (but kept the rules in the list in case I needed them again).

Anyway, as you might surmise, I'm techie enough to try all this out and play around with it, but I don't know the nuances of the impact of setting the QoS bandwidth ranges, and some of the finer points. This is new territory for me, so would very much appreciate some help understanding this and perhaps some additional suggestions and explanations.

Thanks in advance. If nothing else, I'm hoping it will provide some guidance to other cord cutters and MJ/VOIP users -- I was surprised at how little guidance was available. Apologies for the longer post, but this is an area where I felt it important to include a number of necessary details.
 
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Ein

Occasional Visitor
Have you look into other Voip? If you are having so much trouble maybe it is not worth it? I have Ooma for years and it is plug and play. I didn't have to change any router setting to get it working. Maybe it not the router that is the issue?
 

SR-71

Occasional Visitor
It had occurred to me, thanks. However, Ooma was more expensive, and given the time and effort already invested and most of the first year still remaining on my MJ plan, I’d like to try to make this work — at least for now.

I’d really appreciate thoughts on optimizing the Adaptive QoS bandwidth — curious if I should go higher or lower on the DL value, for example.

Also curious to hear from anyone who had to open those ports for VOIP.
 
Last edited:

dave14305

Part of the Furniture
I’d really appreciate thoughts on optimizing the Adaptive QoS bandwidth — curious if I should go higher or lower on the DL value, for example.
There are some inherent shortcomings in stock Adaptive QoS.
  1. A lot of regular HTTPS traffic ends up in the top priority Net Control Packets category, impacting the effect of what you think your top priority should be.
  2. Traffic that Trend Micro cannot categorize ends up in the Work From Home category, also ruining the prospects for VoIP traffic.
  3. Total reliance on the aged sfq queue discipline, which is competent but not designed to address bufferbloat issues the way fq_codel or CAKE are.
You don’t mention what firmware version you’re running, but all these shortcomings can be overcome if you install Merlin’s firmware and the devilishly handsome FlexQoS Addon for Merlin. You may not choose to go that route, but with 10 Mbps upload (1/40th of download), you need proper shaping of your upload bandwidth.
 

SR-71

Occasional Visitor
There are some inherent shortcomings in stock Adaptive QoS.
  1. A lot of regular HTTPS traffic ends up in the top priority Net Control Packets category, impacting the effect of what you think your top priority should be.
  2. Traffic that Trend Micro cannot categorize ends up in the Work From Home category, also ruining the prospects for VoIP traffic.
  3. Total reliance on the aged sfq queue discipline, which is competent but not designed to address bufferbloat issues the way fq_codel or CAKE are.
You don’t mention what firmware version you’re running, but all these shortcomings can be overcome if you install Merlin’s firmware and the devilishly handsome FlexQoS Addon for Merlin. You may not choose to go that route, but with 10 Mbps upload (1/40th of download), you need proper shaping of your upload bandwidth.

Thanks. Running stock firmware 3.0.0.4.384_9918 as it’s been very solid for me (if it ain’t broke for my needs...).

I tried Merlin 384.17 last summer and experienced a noticeable drop in DL speed with a pretty minimal reconfig from scratch (no QoS enabled, did the factory resets, etc.).

Went back to stock and all has been excellent up to now, when I converted to VOIP for my home phone. At the time, that Merlin’s Asus codebase was 3 versions behind latest stock — I realize it’s come quite a bit since then, I just haven’t had a compelling reason to try Merlin again until now.

Haven’t tried the 386 line yet, but I’m game if it’s better.

Questions:

1) Which version of Merlin would you suggest? Latest stable 384 or 386? (Not doing any AiMesh)

2) How does one find, install, and configure the FlexQoS Addon for Merlin? Is there a guide for it anywhere?

3) Would changing the DL or UL QoS bandwidth values from 400/10 help regain some of my DL speed lost without negatively impacting VOIP quality? I initially didn’t go with the overprovisioned values (460/12) because I couldn’t assume that the highest speed would always be available during times of peak neighbor usage, etc. Why do some people only enter 80-90% of their bandwidth?

Thanks again. Your comments are also helping to begin to confirm my suspicion that the MJ issues on the other end of the call (choppiness) are possibly due to the limited and previously unmanaged UL speed. My very limited understanding of QoS is that as long as you’re not using all of your bandwidth simultaneously, then there wasn’t much need to enable it. However, the choppiness was occurring even when the other devices on my network were fairly quiet (pre-QoS enablement).
 
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jmpr

Regular Contributor
It had occurred to me, thanks. However, Ooma was more expensive, and given the time and effort already invested and most of the first year still remaining on my MJ plan, I’d like to try to make this work — at least for now.

I’d really appreciate thoughts on optimizing the Adaptive QoS bandwidth — curious if I should go higher or lower on the DL value, for example.

Also curious to hear from anyone who had to open those ports for VOIP.
I have 5060 port openend for my ata, and a range for rtp.
 

SR-71

Occasional Visitor
Could someone kindly share how to find, install, and configure the FlexQoS Addon for Merlin?

Is there a guide for it anywhere?
 

dave14305

Part of the Furniture

There's a link to more documentation on Github at the bottom of the first post.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
@SR-71 the following may be of help for you.

Best Practice Update/Setup Router/AiMesh Node(s) 2021

amtm Step-by-Step https://www.snbforums.com/threads/amtm-step-by-step-install-guide-l-ld.56237/#post-483421
(Note that 'installing' amtm is not required when using RMerlin firmware 384.15_0 or later).



Overview:
  • Flash the firmware you want to use. RMerlin 386.1_2 release final is highly recommended.
  • Perform the WPS Button reset method for your router(s) after flashing all with the firmware you want to use.
  • Use the appropriate links/suggestions in the first link above to set up the router to best practice defaults.
  • Use the amtm Step-By-Step guide to get a USB drive properly formatted and set up with a swap file, Entware, and the scripts you want to use.
  • When you have the above working as expected, continue with setting up the rest of the network below.
  • Use the appropriate links/suggestions in the first link above to set up any AiMesh nodes you may want to add.
 

SR-71

Occasional Visitor
Thanks everyone, it’s really appreciated — especially for the specifics. Looks like I’ve got some work cut out for me as I’ve never ventured into those aspects on a router before (haven’t needed to before this). I’ve flashed and config’ed alternate firmware before, but nothing like that with setting up partitions, scripts, etc.

Sounds like a good learning project, but one where I’ll need some good time set aside for it (and an understanding family while it’s offline).
 

dave14305

Part of the Furniture
Thanks everyone, it’s really appreciated — especially for the specifics. Looks like I’ve got some work cut out for me as I’ve never ventured into those aspects on a router before (haven’t needed to before this). I’ve flashed and config’ed alternate firmware before, but nothing like that with setting up partitions, scripts, etc.

Sounds like a good learning project, but one where I’ll need some good time set aside for it (and an understanding family while it’s offline).
You don’t need a USB drive to run FlexQoS. Flash Merlin, reset to factory defaults, run amtm via SSH and install FlexQoS (option 3 in amtm). If it works out, then you can venture into the rest of the available addons.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
@dave14305 that is good to know! I'll keep that in mind for the future. :)
 

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