Google won’t give older Pixels the best 5G, even though it admits it could

Google says it has no plans to update the Pixel 4a 5G, 5, or 5a’s software to support 5G C-band in the US, although it also said the phones have the necessary hardware and that the feature will work in other countries. Google did not explain this decision, which it announced in a post on the Pixel support forums (h/t at android font for locating this post). google at updated its latest Pixels in the US, the 6 and 6 Pro, to C-band via a software update, but not these older phones.

The post states that previous Pixel models “have C-band compatible hardware and are enabled to operate in select countries,” but the company “does not plan to support C-band operation in the United States.” United” for these earlier Pixel models.

This news is, frankly, a disappointment. When my colleague Chris Welch tested Verizon’s C-band network, it was significantly faster than 4G LTE and most other 5G services the company provides. Although C-band isn’t as fast as mmWave, it has more range, making it more viable for more customers. Verizon and (to a lesser extent) AT&T are spending billions to make C-band a big part of their 5G networks — and these relatively new phones, seemingly arbitrarily, can’t use it in the US. It’s especially shocking for the Pixel 5, a flagship phone that’s only one generation old and already has FCC approval to use C-band.

(If you’re wondering about T-Mobile, its current 5G network doesn’t use C-band, although it plans to introduce some late next year. like pointing it out during the 5G debacle with the FAA, carriers and airlines.)

Google did not immediately respond to an email from The edge ask why it would support C-band in some countries but not others. In its post, the company points out that the phones will still be able to use all the Sub-6 and mmWave 5G capabilities they had at launch.

As always, this serves as a reminder not to buy something based on features it may or may get in a future software update. In our 2021 Pixel 5a review, we mention that the phone’s lack of C-band could be a downside in the future, but that Google could add support if it wanted to. Unfortunately, it looks like the future is just around the corner for customers with phones that Google East proof. But the company doesn’t seem interested in including US customers who don’t have the latest and greatest Pixels.


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