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.



Completely agree with the above and especially @Rick-DC said about “reliable” service.

All too often I hear people obsessed with high speed “I must have 100Mb or greater” then I usually question why, a lot of the time users require a good stable and/or low latency connection not especially high bandwidth just a stable connection on the lowest latency possible as latency has a huge effect on user experience which is often underestimated and people focus on speed.
I’ve seen many people try and then drop KA band satellite as an alternative because of this, as it can promise higher speeds but the latency is 800ms plus the experience is terrible for most users.
When I speak with customers about load balanced or bonded cellular I always steer the conversation away from “speed” as its rarely relevant and when you explain why most people get it.


thank-you all for the “coverage vs speed” distinction, and pardon the resurrection of a year-old thread. I didn’t want to create a new thread without this background, and here is my follow-up question: if coverage is the issue, what can we say about choosing a modem for the RV traveler in Western U.S., when the ability to find a tower and connect to it, is vastly more important than speed. school me please on the bands taken advantage of by CAT 6 versus CAT 12 and CAT 18 – from the coverage perspective (again, where coverage is questionable and one must use an external antenna), do the CAT 12 and 18 modems offer any advantage?

For traveling and in moderate or spotty coverage areas its better to have a dual-modem unit with 2 SIM cards/carriers. The aggregate bandwidth of two will likely exceed what might be possible in the same location with a single carrier.

A single carrier may not produce enough bandwidth for usability regardless of category.

Take a look at max transit duo with cat12 modems and a 4-way roof mount antenna

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Cool that’s very helpful. I see the specs on the dual 12 (on the 5g store) mention support for band 9 and 48 but i cant find any info on these bands What are 9 and 48 used for? And why is first net band 71 (t mobile) missing from the dual 12?

there are FirstNet specific models, its an added cost as its usually a cat18 or higher modem. Pepwave/Peplink, makers of the Max Transit Duo referenced above, have specific optioned models within each model that are for FirstNet focused typically on that market segment. Unless you have access to FirstNet bands, we are back to the cost vs benefit chat from above. A cat 12 vs cat 18 unit can be a hefty price tag, almost double. You almost are better at matching the frequency of the towers in your area to a modem if you think you need a specific amount of speed.

well, “match the frequency of the towers in your area” can be very difficult for RV travels where it is not feasible to map out all suspected destinations and inventory all the tower coverages you believe you will encounter along the way for camping trips not yet planned or established, where one would make use of the modem over the term of its useful life.

Does anyone know what bands 9 and 48 are (are these even U.S. bands)?


So where are bands 9 and 48 used?

This may be an overly simplistic question, so please feel free to expound if it has missed the mark. If given identical hardware with modular approach, would one be very likely to experience greater speeds on a CAT 18 vs a CAT 12 modem? Is it relatively predictable in that manner or are there still variables in play that may cause the CAT 18 to perform worse than the CAT 12?