What method should be used to select fastest cellular band

I’ve been reading through this forum trying to figure out the best method for identifying:

  1. Which bands are available
  2. Of the available bands which has the fastest download speed

I have a surecall meter to help with pointing a directional antenna which may help with these questions. I’m still learning how to use it though.

I’m curious how others are handling this. I have max transit duo.

My current method is to start on auto. Then, I turn off the band that is automatically selected and do a new speedtest. If the results are better than prior band, then I may stop there. If not, then I’ll do the same thing again; turn off selected band & retest. I do this for each carrier independently. It take a good amount of time and the band selection options I see require me to uncheck a bunch of bands in order to leave only the desired option.

Is there a better way?

Your method is OK - it works, right?

If you want to do the work and have more fine tuned selections, do the following stuff for one carrier at a time.

IMPORTANT: Signal readings and bandwidth speed often don’t correlate - they should, but it’s not the reality given the complexity of LTE. Measuring throughput is the de facto standard. Being aware of both is of course good.

IMPORTANT: Use the directional antenna connected to your signal meter for your readings - not the 9" antenna that comes with the meter. You’ll get readings that are based on the gain that you’ll actually be using when connected to the router.

First of all, use cellmapper.net to find what towers are in your area. This tool will list the towers, their bands, their strength, their location (you’ll have to plot the lat/lon coordinates using this tool beside Google Maps). This will tell you what bands SHOULD be available to you - keep in mind the topography between your location and the various towers. If you have an omnidirectional antenna to use temporarily, it will help - you can put the router in Auto band mode and see what it picks up, then you can see the cell ID in the Dashboard LTE connection page to find the tower using the cellmapper.net tool. This will often show you a tower that other databases don’t have - interesting. Note these coordinates since this is the most likely tower to use for aiming your directional antennas.

The signal meters don’t work well for LTE bands UNLESS you use it in Channel scanning mode but it’s a bit more work - signal meters in “band” mode generally only show a carrier’s primary band/s and other bands OFTEN work better. Do a bit of research on what the frequency ranges are for the bands in your area. Then use the signal meter in channel mode to find your best RSRP db when aiming. Directional antennas such as the Panorama and Poynting 5G offerings are pretty easy to aim since their horizontal dispersion is wide - yagis are a different story (more precision required).

Once you correlate your signal readings, via channel frequency strength, to bands, turn off the unavailable bands using Custom settings for the carriers that you have sims for.

After you have a general idea of what towers are in your area and their coordinates, the surefire way to see if bands are available is to turn off Auto selection in the router and use Custom band setting. For a particular carrier’s sim, select one band at a time and see if your router connects and what the signal readings are. This is pretty much what you’re doing already.

For BANDWIDTH, don’t measure bandwidth using the router, rather, use a client speed test utility since the bandwidth at the “desktop” is what matters. Make a note of the bands that connect. Use the cell ID noted in the Dashboard to verify that it is connecting to the tower you expect (cellmapper.net).

Your Max Transit Duo will aggregate bands. In my case, having done all of the research and testing, my best bandwidth is the following:

AT&T - aggregation of TWO band 2s
Verizon - aggregation of TWO band 66s

I hope this gets you started. In the end, the signal meter didn’t help much for fine tuning panel antennas - there just wasn’t much variance in strength/bandwidth when the antenna was several degrees off from the precise antenna location (I can see the AT&T antenna). I still found comfort in knowing that they were precisely aimed.

If you are using your router while mobile, I highly recommend a panel directional. Also, do your research before you leave on a trip, if you know the locations that you’ll be stopping. I use my router both at home and on the road. My signal meter is most useful when I’m really remote - it can at least give me a general direction to begin aiming my antennas.

Hope this gets you started. I have a lot of experience with this since I’m so anal.

2 Likes

Thank you again @joelbean. This is great info. I will certainly spend some time following this method. I’m not sure how to put the SureCall meter in channel mode, but I’ll figure that out and give it a try. Cellmapper.net looks like a great resource as well.
Thank you so much for taking the time to type all of this out. It is super helpful for a newbie like me.

1 Like

One follow up question. When you say the router will aggregate bands what does that mean? For example, if I select band 2 only on modem 1 for card 1, is that going to cause aggregation to occur?

Your Max Transit Duo has 2 cat 12 modems, one for each sim. It is a 2x2 MIMO router (these have two cables that can be connected to 2 antenna ports per sim). With MIMO, the router can “connect” to two channels simultaneously. This will ALWAYS give you better performance than just one channel. You can’t tell the router to aggregate - it just will if you have a MIMO antenna attached. It will aggregate the same band twice, or different bands. There is no control over this as it’s based on particular tower characteristics and very complicated internal stuff.

If you have a MIMO antenna connected, you can click on the LTE connection on the Peplink Dashboard and see that it has connected multiple times.

My throughput now. Sometimes, in the wee morning hours, I have over 100Mbps.

Also note, upload speed will usually skyrocket with aggregated bands - this would be good for VOIP and online gaming if that’s your thing.

Wow! That is nice. I’ll get there, but still have some work to do.

That all makes sense. I’ve seen that “Secondary Band” section pop up a few time and wasn’t sure how that was being used. Thanks again

Just a side note.

If you find that Band 2 (AT&T) is available, and Band 66 (Verizon) is available, these will probably be good selections, particularly if you are more rural. The reason is that most people’s routers/devices don’t have the ability to select/lock into bands and generally, cell radios will favor the primary bands (AT&T 12/17, Verizon 13/4 superset). Since both Bands 2 and 66, WHERE DEPLOYED, allocate pretty large blocks 10x10 and 20x20, these leave bandwidth “on the table” that others can’t easily use. I have Custom bands selected that don’t allow using the primary bands as noted above. This forces the router to use the others. My optimal setup is as follows:

AT&T - untick (don’t allow) Bands 4, 12, 14 Firstnet, and 66)
Verizon - untick (don’t allow) Band 13

Then allow the router to find connections to the better, less saturated bands. If the carrier (AT&T/Verizon) doesn’t connect with these settings, the other bands aren’t available in your area.

Just an idea.

1 Like

Perfect-o

I’ll probably step through the steps you outlined first, but my guess is that I’ll end up with these settings in the end.

Test results. SpeedFusion is not being used here.

AT&T

Auto band selection (pathetic):

Band 4, 12, 14, and 66 disabled (not terrible)

Band 4, 12, 14, 66, and 5 disabled (about the same above)

I didn’t see aggregation happening when band 5 or band 2 were in use. That could be because of limitations in my test location or maybe I just didn’t wait long enough for the router to find the additional channels.

Certainly, getting off of the congested bands has a huge impact. In my simple test I’m seeing 6x increase in speeds.

Visible (Verizon)

Auto band selection (super duper slow)

Band 2 and 13 disabled (unusable)

Band 13 disabled

At least in my test location Visible seems to be worthless. I’ve done many test over the past couple weeks and have see similar results. I’m getting a Verizon sim that is not deprioritized and will test again.

T-Mobile

Auto band selection (slow as usual)

Disable band 66

Laugh or cry? Not sure

Sprint

I’m not able to put the Sprint sim in my Transit Duo. So, I’m just using a hotspot and connecting the router to it via 2.4 wifi. I have not found an option to select bands in the alcatel hotspot.

Usable

SPC with ATT & Sprint using the best setting from above.

Now that is respectable speeds imo. Thank you peplink for SFC!

Good work Paul. The only problem with SFC is that you won’t likely be able to use streaming services and several websites over the VPN - they’ll get blocked. It’s most important that you optimize your individual LTE connections - I guess that goes without saying, but there you have it.

What antenna are you using? If directional, I would try the following:

For AT&T, Enable ONLY Band 2. Go into Details for the AT&T connection and click on the question mark at the upper-right corner of WAN Connection Status. Select the link for detailed engineering data. Please post back here what the value for UTRAN Cell ID is.

I will then tell you exactly what tower you’re using and the coordinates of the tower using cellmapper.net. I’ll also be able to tell you more detail about AT&T’s Band 2 deployment on the tower.

With this information, you can use the exact bearing from your location to aim your antenna if you are using a directional MIMO antenna. If you are using an omnidirectional MIMO this won’t help.

I’m pretty sure that you will be able to get 2 Band 2s to aggregate if you can do these steps. I earlier said that Band 66 isn’t of much use, BUT as it turns out, if you can aggregate 2 Band 66s, it may be very good - it’s a short-range band and very few people will find/use it.

The procedure using cellmapper.net isn’t difficult, but it requires several steps that I can give you if this works.

Are you interested? If you want to tell me your lat/lon location, I’ll go further and tell you what the bearing is to the antenna - else you can do this yourself using Google Maps. You can then just use a compass app on your cell phone to aim the antenna.

Here’s an example of what I have plotted out for my location and proximity to cell towers.

1 Like

I’m using a poynting 7in 1 right now, but I’m working on my directional antenna setup. I have the antennas mounted on a pole and have the pole mount system worked out, but I haven’t finish pulling the cables. I have a birthday boy turning 9 today so I might be a day or two before I get this done.

My location currently is 30.222586, -97.851105

I did check out cellmapper.net which is very helpful. I think I see how to use this to get a bearing to each tower. Once I get the directional antennas mounted I’ll give this a try and redo the same tests.

With this omnidirectional antenna, you’ve done about all you can to optimize. If bands aren’t aggregating, you can’t do much to fix it. You MIGHT try turning you antenna 90 degrees and check the result. Although they say omni, they don’t disperse a pattern that is round. It is more like a figure eight so turning it may give you two aggregated band 2s.

Please tell me the UTRAN ID when AT&T band 2 is connected - when you get a chance.

Happy birthday to your “boy.” :slight_smile:

You have two AT&T towers very close to you with great band 2 deployments. One is behind Costco and the other is behind Gold’s Gym. Depending what you exposure to these towers is and where you can mount your directional antennas, they should allow you to aggregate band 2.

I noticed that you have very dominant band 12, 5, and 66 in your area. They are probably VERY saturated. Your omni antenna clearly will favor these on Auto. They will also drag down the bandwidth when aggregated with band 2 - I don’t know why this happens but it does.

Leave your setting to only AT&T band 2 for awhile and keep checking it. You may find that it aggregates eventually. You can also drag the LTE link to OFF and back to ON again to see if it reconnects differently.

Again, try turning your antenna 90 degrees and check again.

When you get the directional antenna/s see if you can get them aimed to the band 2 towers I mentioned, even if there’s some obstruction. I’m getting strong signal on Verizon band 66 even though it’s 12 miles away and over a ridge, so you never know.

1 Like

Well, I just found a new cell tower in my area. It deploys AT&T Bands 2, 5, and 66. I’ve done some testing and have found that it’s band 66 may be a very good selection. I earlier said that Band 66 isn’t of much use, BUT as it turns out, if you can aggregate 2 Band 66s, it may be very good - it’s a short-range band and very few people will find/use it.

I will have to raise my antennas above my house to focus on it unfortunately. I live on a ridge, and the tower is behind me on the other side of the ridge, but close (2 miles). I may have to test if my directionals will give me 2 aggregated 66s by aiming them at the ridge line - lots of obstruction but who knows. It looks promising.