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Nordic Expands Into Cellular IoT

February 13, 2018

Author: Bob Wheeler

Following its success in Bluetooth 5 MCUs, Nordic has entered the cellular market with new products for LTE-M (Category M1) and NB-IoT. Rather than introduce only an SoC, it worked with Qorvo to develop a complete system-in-package (SiP) that incorporates that company’s RF front end along with Nordic’s MCU and radio. The new NRF91-series also includes versions with integrated GPS for asset trackers. Nordic is sampling the SiPs to lead customers and has demonstrated them on Telia and Verizon LTE-M networks.

The heart of the NRF91 SiP is a custom SoC that integrates an application processor, an undisclosed amount of RAM and flash memory, an LTE baseband and transceiver, a GPS receiver, and power management. It has a Cortex-M33 CPU, which adds TrustZone security features and outperforms Cortex-M4. The design includes Arm’s optional CryptoCell-310 core for root of trust and accelerated over-the-air encryption. Nordic supplements its hardware with a software-development kit, as it does for the NRF52. The SoC’s integrated transceiver covers 700MHz to 2.2GHz and handles both LTE-M and NB-IoT bandwidths, delivering data rates of up to 360kbps and 60kbps, respectively. The NRF91 SiP comes in a 10mm x 16mm LGA with 0.5mm pitch and includes all necessary crystals and passive components.

The NRF91 is equivalent to LTE-M modules from companies such as Gemalto, Sierra Wireless, Telit Communications, and U-blox, but it occupies at least 40% less board area. Nordic is later to market with LTE-M than other chip vendors; Altair (Sony), Qualcomm, and Sequans have all reached production. By taking a step up the supply chain, it’s minimizing time to market, narrowing the lead of competing chip vendors.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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