Google's Pixel 3 will be gaining support for an additional band of 4G LTE via a software update, based on a recently spotted change to its FCC listing spotted by XDA Developers. An addendum filed on the original listing seeks specifically to enable LTE Band 48 operation through software with no alterations to the hardware. The document associated with the adjustment indicates that all the initial radio readouts from the original frequency tests stay the same with the update, so the device will almost certainly still meet certification requirements. Software modifications required to make the change don't have a set rollout just yet but support for band 48 would be applied to the international variant of the Pixel 3 — model number G013A. That's the same version that's also sold by Verizon and should mean that network's users will be able to use the band if it's turned on in their area.
A truly new frequency but only for mobiles
Band 48 of the wireless shared spectrum has already been in use some time, with its 150MHz of the 3.5 GHz spectrum more commonly referred to under its designation as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band. Ranging from 3650MHz – 3700MHz, the CBRS has traditionally been utilized by the US government for radar and similar purposes. That means there are some additional restrictions on its use such as requirements that providers are ready to switch channels if needed so as to avoid interrupting previous technologies using the frequencies. But the CBRS portion of the spectrum has also been marked as a vital part of the upcoming 5G networks expected to begin rolling out more widely this year and into 2020.
Testing on Band 48 commenced earlier this year beginning with Verizon and later with Comcast requesting permission to conduct trials. In conjunction with that, the CBRS Alliance was formed with an "OnGo" certification program created as of May 8 for certifying smartphones and IoT devices to operate in the segment. Products not only need to show appropriate interoperability and the above-mentioned optimizations for sharing the network. Smartphones and other electronics using Band 48 must also align with WInnForum standards to meet the baseline technical specifications to obtain certification. That Google's request to open up to the band with its Pixel 3 handset seems to have been approved by the FCC appears to indicate that the device was already compliant when it released. Verizon's early participation in tests on CBRS may be at least part of the reason Google continued its tradition of launching the handset exclusively through the carrier as the only official partner on the device.
No Pixel 3 XL
As of this writing, the same software update doesn't seem to be planned for the Google Pixel 3 XL. That may not actually be the case since Google may have simply not filed the paperwork or that hasn't been approved yet. A decision not to include support for an extra band on only one of its flagships would be at odds compared to past behavior from the search giant. So it doesn't seem likely the larger of the two devices will be left out, even if it does receive the update later on instead of simultaneously. The update will not be enabled to allow 5G connections either since the documentation directly references 'LTE' and the Google Pixel family isn't packed with the right hardware for that. But it should make using the device a better experience in more places for end users with supporting service providers.