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Sequans Adds CPU to IoT Modem

April 18, 2017

Author: Linley Gwennap

Reducing the cost of cellular IoT devices, Sequans has added an embedded controller to its low-cost LTE modem, creating the new Monarch SX processor. It targets fixed IoT devices such as utility meters as well as wearables and asset trackers. Sequans expects to sample the processor by midyear and put it into production around the end of 2017.

Monarch SX includes a Cortex-M4 CPU that can handle the application code for many IoT devices, eliminating the need for an external MCU. It also features a simple GPU, audio engine, and sensor hub as well as an integrated display controller and power manager. Based on the company’s existing Monarch product, the modem handles LTE Category M1 and Category NB1 at a maximum data rate of 1Mbps. The SoC integrates an RF transceiver but requires an external RF front end.

Cat-M1 and Cat-NB1 were created to simplify the design and reduce the cost of LTE modems for low-data-rate devices, including many IoT devices. These standards restrict the data rate to simplify the processing and also reduce the radio bandwidth to simplify the RF subsystem, but they still provide the full range of LTE. As operators look to shut down their 2G and 3G networks, narrowband LTE will provide a long-term solution for IoT.

Deployment of these new protocols is just starting, however. Sequans has certified the standalone Monarch modem with Verizon, which recently launched nationwide Cat-M1 service, and it’s working to certify with other operators. Companies such as Gemalto and Huawei sell Monarch modules for customers that want to avoid worrying about the LTE RF design. Sequans claims it has more than 20 Monarch design wins. We expect volume deployment for narrowband LTE to ramp in 2018.

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