LTE Categories 12 vs 18 or higher


Hi there
What’s the story with Cat 12 VS Cat 18 (or higher) Modems - I see that the HD4-MBX has Cat12 modems but there are much higher rated modems available. Why did Peplink go with a lower rated modem when on paper the throughput from a Cat 18 or higher modem is much higher?
Is there going to be a module available between now and 5G which will take advantage of the higher throughput modules?


So cat 12 has a max of 603 Mbps download and 102 Mbps upload with carrier aggregation across 2 or 4 channels. Cat 18 is 1174Gbps download with CA across 2,4 or 8 channels (typically paired with a cat13 module for ~150Mbps upload.

Cat12 modem modules are available and good value. I understand that Cat 18 modems are also available (just not as available as Cat 12 and of course more expensive).

Knowing Peplink as well as I do - I’m confident that if you wanted a HD4-MBX with Cat 18 modems they’d make you one (or 100 or 1000), but I think they have ,made the right mass market decision to go with CAT12 straight out of the gate.

Don’t know about you, but I live in a part of the world where 4G coverage is not guaranteed and even when it is available is often heavily contended. Yes in theory the operators are rolling out new massive mimo 5G ready tower equipment that can support Gbps+ speeds, but in practice those are few and far between - a least for the moment.

That said, I follow an epic guy called Peter Clarke on twitter who spends and extraordinary amount of time looking for and testing towers and he has found some great ones:

Of course headline LTE speeds are important - yes you want to be future proof, but at these kinds of speeds the typical cellular data contracts don’t fit any more ( a couple of mins into the month on a 20Gb contract and you’ll have run out of data…).

Even ignoring the fibre rollout that has to happen to get Gbps of bandwidth to all the towers in the UK which then need upgraded equipment, I still think the gating factor on actually using massive speeds on LTE is finding an end user application that actually needs that amount of data in the first place and then the commercial costs of buying large amounts of cellular bandwidth. We can happily provide you with Terrabits of data a month on any UK network but the cost of that amount of data is not acceptable for most internet users - unless your application demands it and your business model can support it.

Its these commercial restrictions around data costs - combined with a lack of mass market demand for silly levels of bandwidth currently that’s driven the initial choice of the CAT12 modems I would imagine.


Hello @Horizon,
To add to what @MartinLangmaid has posted, the next generation of LTE rolling out (call 5g for marketing), has differing frequency and modulation standards around the world.

Although not yet publicly published, I recently was shown (unable to keep a copy though) of how the most recent Australia Radio Spectrum Auction frequency mapping for the 3500Mhz spectrum has been divided up and dish out, from our initial assessment its a technology manufacturing nightmare. Like many countries around the world who have there own spectrum management and regulators, it creates a complex variation in the required equipment that has to get manufactured.

A very safe business practice with cellular/mobile data devices is to let the consumer market saturate the new systems for the first few years in mass quantities and let those cheaper mass produced devices be the genie pigs on the latest technology and do not expose your commercial customers to the unproven technology.

Professionally Peplink is doing the right thing with the new EPX & MBX range manufactured to be modular. By holding off on pushing the latest technology, Peplink is protecting us all from early adopter issues and as such giving us all much more stable and reliable enterprise-grade solutions.
Happy to Help,
Marcus :slight_smile:


I feel compelled to “pile on” to what @MartinLangmaid and @mldowling have said – all of with which I fully agree. :nerd_face: While the higher rated modems will make sense in the future that time is relatively far away. In the areas where we mostly operate we won’t see 5G – or have a need for greater than Cat 12 modems – for quite some number of years. We fight just to get solid, reliable service at relatively modest speeds. Coverage is the issue – not speed.

We think Cat12 products are where the “sweet spot” is vis-a-vis performance and price. If/when they no longer do the job we’ll likely be ready for a hardware refresh anyway and acquire faster products at that time. If we furnished faster modems now it would be money poorly spent.


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