As we inch closer to the launch of the Pixel 4, we are beginning to see new developments about the device almost every second day. The recent one comes from XDA Developers, highlighting the possibility of the availability of Soli gestures coming to the Pixel 4 in select countries only. According to the article which relies on a listing on Best Buy, the Soli Motion Sense technology on Pixel 4 will only be functional in the US, Canada, Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, and most European countries, which means, if you happen to be a Pixel fan located in India (and few other countries), you are out of luck, and might unfortunately not get the feature.
To jog your memory, a couple of months back, Google teased an image of the alleged Pixel 4 on Twitter, which gleamed light on the possibility of the presence of a Soli Chip on the device. For the uninitiated, Soli Chip is a part of Project Soli and comes from Google’s ATAP group. It uses radar to enable various types of touchless interactions and allow users to perform actions like change tracks, navigate screens, snooze alarms etc. In addition to motion gestures, the chip also plays its part in offering advanced facial recognition features. [We have a detailed post on Project Soli over here]
Why India might miss out on motion sense tech on Pixel 4?
Talking about the availability of the Motion Sense technology in different regions of the world, one of the determining factors that could be hindering the feature from coming to certain countries is its range of operating frequencies. To give you a background, back when Project Soli was announced, it was approved for use in the 57-to-64GHz frequency band, which is a 60GHz (V-Band), also called WiGig, that is located in the millimeter-wave (mmW) section of the electromagnetic spectrum, and is desirable for applications requiring high transmission bandwidth. One of the plausible reasons for using V-Band is the high-frequency range, which enables data transmission at high data rates, with very low to none latency. In other words, lower the latency, the faster the response time between your interactions with the device.
For an organization to be able to use a frequency band, there are certain laws in place that decide whether the commercial use of a spectrum is authorized or prohibited. With the V-Band spectrum, while certain countries have already unlicensed the spectrum to make it easier for companies to use it to offer their services, some are yet to make it unlicenced. A thing to note here is that every country holds certain rights to allow or prevent organizations from using these frequency bands. Generally speaking, it can either auction the band for a lump-sum amount, license it for a fixed amount of fee, or exempt the license, which would, in turn, allow any company to freely use the band for offering their services.
Based on this report from Financial Express, the fate of V-Band is subject of discussion amongst the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for close to four years. And apparently, there is a dilemma around whether to license the V-Band or exempt its license.
As more-and-more companies continue to innovate and offer new and improved services to the users, some of these companies, along with a few Telecom Service Providers (TSP), continue to lobby for licensing. According to the report, “the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP) 2011 considers only part of this globally harmonized band for the possible deployment of high-capacity dense networks.” Which also suggests that “if the band is unlicenced, then the critical element of the network can be leveraged by the unlicensed internet firms to provide bandwidth-consuming content as a close substitute to telcos’ offerings.”
To deal with this issue, the TRAI recommended a fixed fee-based mechanism for assigning the band to the TSPs. However, as quoted in the article, “due to various reasons—including the after-effects of the 2012 Supreme Court judgment on the allocation of spectrum through auctions”, it never saw the light of day. And, in 2015, “the TRAI indicated that following other countries India should also de-license the 60 GHz band immediately.” But, even after a span of over four years, the DoT has not acted on the same. And, we do not have any updates on its advancements.
As of now, we are not sure if licensing of the V-Band is the hurdle stopping Google from keeping India out of its list of supported countries that are likely to get Soli Motion Sense technology on Pixel 4. However, based on the above report, it does seem like the licensing issue could be a possible reason. In which case, it would be interesting to see if Google tries to lobby in and find a way to avail the service in India. Or, if in case it fails, will it cut down the pricing for Pixel 4 in the Indian market. Which, in our opinion seems unlikely. And as a result, at the end of the day, the users will have to settle with the feature missing on their Pixel 4.