This year, carriers in the US are phasing out support for 3G cellular networks and Google is detailing how it will impact Pixel owners, while it released a Voice over LTE (VoLTE) roaming update this month.

Update 8/23: Out of the box, the Pixel 6a was running an April security patch and Google updated it to a June build on day one. This was then followed by a GPS fix at the start of August. 

With Android 13, Google enabled “VoLTE roaming for many U.S. and global carriers” on the Pixel 6a. All other first-party phones got this support with the June update.

In 2021, carriers in the U.S. announced they would phase out their 3G networks. As a result, some devices that don’t support Voice over LTE (VoLTE) or VoLTE roaming may lose voice calling services, including calls to 911, or connectivity when the 3G networks are shut down.

Original 6/17: A “June 2022 software update” enabled VoLTE roaming on Pixel phones for many US and global carriers. As such, “many” of Google’s devices — Pixel 3a to 6 Pro — can roam stateside with VoLTE if it’s supported by carriers, which is the key thing to check for on a case-by-case basis. The full update list is as follows:

  • Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL
  • Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL
  • Pixel 4a
  • Pixel 4a (5G), Pixel 5
  • Pixel 5a (5G)
  • Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro

That update is presumably the June security patch, which explains why the Pixel 3a and 3a XL got an update — still on May patch and not the final one — alongside all other phones at the start of this month.

However, if you’re using an older Google device like the 2016 Pixel, Pixel 2, or 3, Google says “you will experience issues on your home network and we recommend you upgrade to a device that has VoLTE enabled for your carrier.”

Devices without VoLTE roaming support will not be able to roam on other LTE US networks.  Contact your carrier for information about whether VoLTE or VoLTE roaming is supported for your device.

Meanwhile, “international customers who are roaming in the U.S. and on a device without VoLTE roaming support” will similarly “lose connectivity and/or voice calling capabilities while on affected carrier networks in the U.S.”

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Abner Li

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