Google says it has no plans to update the software for the Pixel 4a 5G, 5, or 5a to support C-band 5G in the US, although it also said the phones have the necessary hardware and that the feature would work in other countries. Google didn’t explain the decision, which it announced in a post on the Pixel support forums (h/t at Android Police to locate this message). Google at updated its latest Pixels in the US, the 6 and 6 Pro, with C-band via a software update, but not these older phones.
The message states that previous Pixel models “have C-band compatible hardware and are enabled to operate in certain countries,” but the company “does not intend to support C-band operation in the States.” States” for these earlier Pixel models.
This news is, frankly, a disappointment. When my colleague Chris Welch tested Verizon’s C-band network, it was noticeably faster than 4G LTE and most other 5G services the company provides. While 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, though it plans to introduce some late next year. The company like highlighting this during the 5G debacle with the FAA, carriers and airlines.)
Google did not immediately respond to an email from The rod 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 Pixel 5a 2021 review, we mention that the phone’s lack of C-band could be a downside in the future, but that Google could add support for it if it wanted. Unfortunately, it looks like that future is just around the corner for customers with phones that Google East To support. But the company doesn’t seem interested in including US customers who don’t have the latest and greatest Pixels.