Google has confirmed an upcoming event where it’s expected to debut its new hardware options. While these are still unconfirmed entities, speculation has pointed to the likelihood of a new Pixelbook - the company’s own Chromebook solution. In fact, if rumors are to be believed then it would seem there is likely to be more than one Pixelbook Chromebook announced at the event. Even grander speculating suggests Google plans to announce an LTE-enabled Pixelbook at the event, and a new filing might -- or might not -- further confirm an LTE Pixelbook.
A new FCC listing was recently posted. While FCC listings often reference the introduction of new products, they can also be for a “permissive change” where an entity looks to make a change to an existing FCC listing. The latter of which is something Google has recently requested, with the permissive change revolving around the Fibocom L850-GL. This is an LTE Cat 9 module and the change sought by Google is to classify the module under a different FCC ID for marketing purposes. To be clear, the module stays the same, and still remains as a Fibocom module, and listed under the original FCC ID, as nothing actually changes on the Fibocom side. Instead, Google will use the module and market it under this new ID in a similar way to how it would if it was the company's own module. The first instances of the new FCC filing date back to August 28, although changes have been made/additional documents added as recently as September 10 - the latter of which is what has brought it to our attention now.
There's nothing untoward here and the requested change is accompanied by a letter from Fibocom approving of the third-party use of the module by Google. So what is interesting and telling is the fact that Google wants to market this module as its own. As the only feasible reason Google would do that is if it plans to use the product in question in one of its own hardware solutions. Which is possibly where the Pixelbook comes in. As the Fibocom L850-GL is an LTE module that is now commonly found in PCs and laptops. So, for example, many of the always-connected PCs you can buy from many mainstream manufacturers will come equipped with an LTE module like this one. In a number of cases, it’s highly likely the module in use will actually be the Fibocom L850-GL, as this module is purpose-designed to be a fits-all solution. Maybe it’s this one-size-fits-all tag that Google is looking to avoid by utilizing new marketing? In either case and regardless of how it’s marketed, one of the downsides of being such a generic and fits-all module, is that it's not the most impressive module out there. For example, the L850-GL is limited to download speeds of up to 450 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 50 Mbps. To put the limitation into perspective, Qualcomm recently announced its Snapdragon 850 platform which is specifically designed for ‘always on, always connected’ devices, with the 850 platform’s cellular capabilities underwritten by the company’s Snapdragon X20 LTE modem - capable of delivering download speed of up to 1.2 Gbps, and upload speeds of 150 Mbps. Not to mention it also supports a wealth of other more advanced features compared to the Fibocom L850-GL. So, if a new Pixelbook will arrive boasting LTE capabilities, those same capabilities are unlikely to be massively impressive once you get past the initial LTE functionality. Yes, it will suffice for what it's intended for, but if the Pixelbook 2 does come with LTE, it’s not quite going to be the same proposition offered by the latest and greatest devices powered by Qualcomm’s solution.
In spite of the FCC filing, the possibility remains this module will not be used in a Pixelbook at all. As digging further into the FCC filing shows a number of references to the Verily Study Hub. This is a device that is designed to work as a data hub for the ‘Study Watch’ and is understood to be both Wi-Fi and cellular-compatible. In fact, the testing documents all show the Fibocom L850-GL as having been tested in the Study Hub already. Evidently, this would seem to suggest the Study Hub draws on the Fibocom L850-GL for its cellular basis. However, the Study Hub is not strictly speaking a new device, as it is understood to already be available to researchers and institutions for clinical studies along with the Study Watch. So it remains to be seen why Google would all of a sudden now be looking to reclassify the Fibocom L850-GL under its own FCC ID, considering it has already been using the module in one of its products for some time, and in a product that's not technically available to general consumers - devaluing the sudden need to market the module differently. Which means these latest FCC changes might be more to do with the original suggestion, and that Google is now actually looking to expand the use of the Fibocom L850-GL to more of its own products, like a Pixelbook. Especially when keeping in mind that the module in question is this catch-all solution and one that has already established itself as an always-connected PC solution. In other words, if Google was to announce an LTE-enabled Chromebook at the upcoming October 9 hardware event, it would make sense that it would be powered by the Fibocom L850-GL. The very module the company has now requested be filed under its name.