The saga of the so-called “C-band” frequencies is nearly over, but there’s at least one new hiccup. Now that the FAA snafu has resolved, compatible devices are starting to get updates that add support for the new spectrum. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro just picked up support for Verizon’s new C-band deployments. But, although Google previously updated the Pixel 5’s FCC certification to include C-Band support, Google has announced that it isn’t bringing C-band support to the Pixel 5, Pixel 5a, or Pixel 4a 5G — all of which share similar hardware .
The news comes courtesy of a post on Google’s Pixel Phone Help forums, together with a simultaneous announcement from Verizon’s George Koroneos, celebrating the arrival of Verizon’s new frequencies to the Pixel 6 series.
Unfortunately, the older Pixel 5 isn’t getting the same treatment, even though it’s been approved by the FCC for use on the frequencies. It’s not clear if there’s some other limiting factor at play. Verizon has so far had to test and approve devices individually to use its new C-band network. The older hardware might not meet some sort of requirement, but some other “older” devices from the same era — like the Galaxy S21 series, Z Fold/Flip3, and 12-series iPhones — have also been approved for C-band use on Verizon.
Google has explicitly confirmed that the Pixel 5, 5a, and 4a 5G won’t be getting C-band support. All three phones shared several hardware details like their chipset and modem, and though we had only personally seen the Pixel 5 pick up FCC support for C-band frequencies, it may have been possible to deliver that functionality to all three phones if they shared enough Other hardware — things like antennas, amplifiers, and other parts can also make a difference in band compatibility, and those may have varied.
Verizon’s 5G strategy is leaning now on C-band to fill the gaps that everyone knew mmWave wouldn’t be able to — though Verizon’s marketing continued to overhype the utility of the short-distance, easily blocked frequencies. Many smartphone companies had to make specific (and often more expensive) mmWave versions of their phones just for use on Verizon’s network. Now that Verizon has a viable alternative to mmWave, more companies might skip out on expensive mmWave hardware in their phones. The recent 3rd gen iPhone SE, for example, skipped mmWave support entirely, and Verizon is still selling it.
We’ve reached out to Google and Verizon for more information about why the Pixel 5 and family won’t be getting C-band support, but neither company immediately responded to our inquiry.
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