Given the radio technology’s power efficiency, cost savings, reliability, and global reach, Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) promises to a standout for IoT applications. With an estimated 3.2 billion cellular IoT connections in 2024, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. is placing bets on that promise with the introduction of their 212 LTE IoT modem. The one-chip device includes a modem baseband, application processor, memory, RF transceiver with fully integrated RF front end, and power management units, enabling LTE modules below 100 square millimeters in size.
“Narrowband and eMTC are actually 5G technologies. There is no new radio being defined. They do keep evolving but they fundamentally remain the same,” says Vieri Vanghi, vice president, product management, Qualcomm Europe, Inc.
Vanghi continues, “If I was to summarize what inspired this architecture is would be the Bluetooth. At 5.7 x 5.7 mm, it extremely small, implements a power-efficient chipset architecture allowing for extremely low average power consumption, requires less than one micro-amp (1uA) of sleep current, and offers an ultra-low system-level cutoff voltage to support a wide range of batteries — all at the same cost point as Bluetooth modules. In other words, the 212 architecture is what you would expect from a Bluetooth module only it is cellular.”
The Qualcomm 212 LTE IoT Modem supports single-mode 3GPP Release 14 Cat. NB2 IoT connectivity, anticipated to enable extended coverage for delay-tolerant applications on RF frequency bands spanning from 700MHz to 2.1GHz for Global roaming.
Its high level of integration with few external components not only results in a low-cost Bill of Materials, but also facilitates quicker module design enabling faster commercialization time for OEMs. The integrated ARM Cortex M3 application processor and the native set of IoT data networking protocols help enable embedded IoT applications. Qualcomm is also launching an SDK for use with the Qualcomm 212 LTE IoT Modem, which is designed to support developers in running custom software on the integrated applications processor, with an expectation to offer pre-integrated support for cloud platforms such as the Microsoft Azure IoT SDK.
The global, single-mode Qualcomm 212 LTE IoT Modem complements the company’s 9205 LTE Modem, which offers Cat.NB2, Cat.M1, and GPRS connectivity in addition to GNSS support. Together, the Qualcomm 212 LTE IoT Modem and Qualcomm 9205 LTE Modem are designed to provide customers with a comprehensive portfolio of IoT modems to address many IoT ecosystem connectivity needs. The modem is expected to be commercially available in the second half of 2020.