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Verizon and Telia demonstrate Nordic cellular IoT device

Steve Rogerson
February 1, 2018

Nordic Semiconductor has provided a sneak peek of its upcoming nRF91 low-power cellular IoT device by demonstrating it operating on the Verizon Wireless Network in the USA and the Telia network in Norway.
The Norwegian company says the device is about taking the value proposal of cellular and bringing simplicity and appeal to a broader market. Today cellular is associated with the high data rates of smartphones and tablets. This product aims to take cellular beyond just mobile devices and foster innovation that brings cellular connectivity to just about anything.
In much the same way as Nordic's nRF5 drove adoption of Bluetooth wireless technology, the nRF91 is designed to be an accessible for cellular connectivity. By setting benchmarks in terms of integration, size and power consumption, coupled with its ease-of-use, the company says the device is designed to unleash the potential of cellular in IoT.
Front and centre of the device is an integrated, low power, global multimode LTE-M and NB-IoT system-in-package (SiP). The SiP integrates a cellular IoT system into a 10 by 16 by 1.2mm package that integrates modem, transceiver, RF front end, dedicated application processor, flash memory, power management, and crystal and passive components.
The SiP uses Qorvo’s RF front-end, packaging and MicroShield technology. It supports global operation with a single SiP variant thanks to the combination of Nordic’s multimode LTE-M and NB-IoT modem, saw-less transceiver, and a custom RF front-end from Qorvo.
“We are pleased with our strategic partnership with Nordic to bring this new category of cellular IoT to the market,” said Eric Creviston, president of mobile products at Qorvo. “Qorvo is excited to see our leading RF and advanced packaging technology playing a key and enabling part of new products targeting the emerging low-power cellular IoT market.”
On security, it combines the inherent security of cellular connectivity with security for the application hardware and software. The integration of an Arm Cortex-M33 processor and Arm CryptoCell-310 security IP enables an entire low power cellular IoT application to be implemented the SiP.
The built-in host processor uses Trustzone for Arm v8-M, helping secure application data, firmware and peripherals using an isolated, trusted execution environment across the CPU and system. This provides an efficient security foundation, and reduces size, bill-of-materials and power consumption versus using an external host processor.
“Delivering the combination of power efficient, Trustzone secure, and cellular connectivity capabilities to the extensive Cortex-M developer base opens up the benefits of IoT to a diverse range of new and innovative applications,” said Thomas Ensergueix, senior director at Arm. “We are pleased to see the nRF91 SiP from Nordic with Cortex-M33 and CryptoCell-310 enabling the deployment of secure IoT at scale.”
The SiP also has built-in support for positioning via integrated assisted GPS (A-GPS) that combines cellular and GPS technology to deliver fast and accurate positioning.
Jointly developed by a cellular design team in Finland and low power experts in Norway, the chip was developed from scratch to optimise the power, cost and size savings enabled by the LTE-M and NB-IoT cellular standards.
Included is a suite of software and development tools to accelerate innovation and product development. Assistance is available from a technical support team and the Nordic development community.
“Back in early 2015, when we started the development of nRF91 series, we set out on a mission to create a truly different solution for cellular IoT,” said Thomas Embla Bonnerud, director of strategy at Nordic Semiconductor. “A highly integrated, low power, ultra-compact and simple-to-use solution that would foster innovation and accelerate adoption of cellular connectivity across new markets. We are confident that the upcoming nRF91 series represents such difference, and we are excited to provide a sneak peek and demonstration of it.”
Telia is experiencing an unprecedented demand for dedicated IoT connectivity represented by LTE-M and NB-IoT. These technologies enable products and services that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Access to components has so far been scarce and has hindered large-scale commercial launches. That is why Telia has been a supportive partner to Nordic Semiconductor in the development of the product, sharing its insight of the market and plans and ambitions for the IoT market. It also made its network available for testing.
“We are happy to see that Nordic Semiconductor now announces their new product, and that our collaborating partners are eager to launch novel products and services benefitting on the unique capabilities of LTE-M and NB-IoT," said Andreas Carlsson, head of Telia Next.
Nordic is sampling the nRF91 to selected lead customers now. Start of general sampling is planned for mid-2018, with first production quantities available by the end of 2018. The nRF91 SIP will be available in variants with and without integrated GPS.