IEEE 802.15.4

IEEE 802.15.4 is a standard for low data rate, low power networks. IEEE 802.15.4 defines the physical (PHY) and Medium Access Control (MAC) layers and forms the basis for numerous upper layer networking specifications including Thread, 6LowPAN, Zigbee and Wireless HART. IEEE 802.15.4 is supported by the Nordic nRF52840 multi-protocol SoC.


The nRF52840 implements the 250kbs PHY for the 2.4GHz ISM band and has lower data rate capacity than Bluetooth 5 (2Mbs). It is a popular PHY and MAC layer for numerous networking layers above both standardized and non-standardized.


It differs from Bluetooth low energy in a number of ways, of most significance;

  • Maximum data rate
  • IEEE 802.15.4 – 250kbs
  • Bluetooth low energy (Bluetooth 5) – 2Mbs
  • Modulation scheme
  • IEEE 802.15.4 – QPSK
  • Bluetooth low energy – GFSK
  • Channel scheme and channel assessment
  • IEEE 802.15.4 – 16 x 2MHz channels
  • Bluetooth low energy (37 x 2 MHz channels (data) + 3 x 2MHz channels (advertising)
  • Packet structure + payload
  • IEEE 802.15.4 – 127 bytes (payload)
  • Bluetooth low energy – 27 bytes or up to 127 bytes (DLE)


Whilst IEEE 802.15.4 does not implement any networking layers it has been a popular choice for networking implementations. It defines two types of node devices in a network a Full-Function Device (FFD) and a Reduced Function Device (RFD). Networks can be built using peer-to-peer or star topologies and have been expanded to create mesh networks in standards such as Zigbee and Thread.



Thread is a standards-based IPv6-based mesh networking protocol developed for simply and securely connecting products around the home to each other, to the internet and to the cloud. Thread networks are simple to install, highly secure, scalable to hundreds of devices and developed to run on low-power IEEE 802.15.4 devices.

The nRF52840 multi-protocol SoC can support Thread networking stacks.

For more details about Thread visit

Thread Group



ZigBee is a global, 802.15.4-based wireless networking for conveniently and affordably control a wide range of devices to improve comfort, security and convenience for consumers. It supports mesh networking for intelligent, scalable and self-organizing networks within the home and buildings.

The nRF52840 multi-protocol SoC can support Zigbee networking stacks

For more details about Zigbee visit



nRF52840 multi-protocol SoC

The nRF52840 multi-protocol SoC supports a range of protocols including both Bluetooth low energy, ANT and IEEE 802.15.4. It is a highly flexible and advanced wireless SoC for building IEEE 802.15.4 and/or Bluetooth low energy applications.



802.15.4 and upper networking and application layers


Related products

Part # Brief description
nRF52840 Multi-protocol Bluetooth low energy (Bluetooth 5), ANT, 802.15.4, 2.4GHz RF SoC
nRF52840 Preview DK Development kit for nRF52840 SoC