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Zen Internet exposes ADSL router chip fault

Popular UK ISP Zen Internet has uncovered a potential fault in Texas Instruments AR7 chip, which can be found inside roughly one third of the world’s routers; such as models from NetGear and LinkSys (Cisco).

The provider is recommending that its customers avoid buying broadband routers with the chip as such hardware may cause connections to become unstable:

Phil Long, a technical support manager at the firm, explained that Zen fingered the issue when BT engineers were called to test lines for subscribers suffering repeated disconnections. BT staff test for a wiring problem using hardware based on chips made by Speedtouch, a rival of the AR7.

In many cases, the BT man would report back that there was no problem with the line, and the customer would be stung with an £169 unnecessary call-out charge.

"We're not saying there's definitely a problem [with the AR7 itself], but it does seem to be a common factor," Long said. The "fault" manifests itself on lines that have a variable signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Fluctuating SNR can be caused by submerged wires, interference from electrical equipment, and myriad other factors on Britain's aged copper phone network.

German chip giant Infineon, which acquired Texas Instruments xDSL arm during the summer of this year, blames the problem on poor UK infrastructure and feels that their chip is both mature and reliable.

It's recommended that customers already with the chip and experiencing problems should endeavour to test their connections with hardware that doesn't include it before resorting to an engineer call out.

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