Nordic Semiconductor today announces that it has partnered with one of the world’s largest international cellular carriers in voice, data, and IoT services, iBASIS, to make global LTE-M and NB-IoT cellular IoT connectivity ultra-easy, automatic, and instant when using its nRF9160 System-in-Package (SiP) module.
Nordic has achieved this by bundling a globally-usable iBASIS eSIM with 10 MB of free initial data into all its nRF9160 Development Kits. All a Nordic nRF9160 cellular IoT customer has to do is register their eSIM on Nordic’s nRF Connect for Cloud website to seamlessly connect to the iBASIS ‘Global Access for Things’ network and gain access to an entire range of configurations, monitoring, and connectivity services.
Although it’s not common knowledge outside of the cellular communications industry, global smartphone connectivity and roaming services are actually provided by only a few international carriers that partner with local national carriers to enable connectivity and roaming for voice, data, and IoT services worldwide. iBASIS is one of the world’s largest international carriers or ‘IP Exchange providers’ and used by over 700 local carriers in over 190 countries.
As a result, Nordic’s nRF9160 cellular IoT customers get instant high-quality global connectivity without having to go through the ordeal of negotiating and managing multiple relationships with individual local cellular carriers around the world. Using eSIM technology, they simply leverage iBasis as a single global connectivity supplier, with a single contract, a single ‘operations’ on-line dashboard, and a single monthly bill that breaks down all global services used.
An eSIM is a remotely, over-the-air ‘provisionable’ (programmable) SIM that can hold multiple sets of local network operator credentials in contrast to a traditional SIM card that can only hold one set of operator credentials. The iBASIS eSIM meets all relevant GSM Association (GSMA) standards.
The nRF9160 SiP – which is available from major global electronics distributors such as Digi-Key Electronics, Mouser Electronics, and Premier Farnell (amongst others) – is significantly smaller, lower power, and has more security features than any other cellular IoT module launched to date for LTE-M and NB-IoT applications. It is also certified for global operation, has a host of unique IoT-targeted features, and is dramatically easier to design-in (see ‘More about nRF9160 SiP’ below).
“iBASIS believes that for IoT to succeed, connecting things should be easy,” says Ajay Joseph, CTO of iBASIS. “We feel IoT connectivity should be turnkey, seamless, and secure. We’re delighted to partner with Nordic Semiconductor to provide an eSIM for Nordic’s nRF91 Series cellular IoT modules. We are reducing complexity, making it easy to support Nordic’s customers’ global deployment, using a single eSIM, for a remotely programmable on demand service. Nordic customers can focus on their core competencies knowing that their cellular IoT connectivity, coverage, speed, latency, and security are all being expertly managed by one of the world’s leading international cellular data carriers.”
“We designed the nRF91 Series from the outset to make cellular IoT easy and applicable to any application that would benefit from a cellular connection,” comments Geir Langeland, Nordic Semiconductor's Director of Sales & Marketing. “For us, this extends to every aspect of the module’s operation and customer experience and that includes making international connectivity and roaming automatic and instant. In fact, I think for any IoT application to succeed its wireless IoT connectivity must be that simple. With the iBASIS eSIM, we believe Nordic Semiconductor has delivered this to its customers. It’s also why we believe cellular wireless technology is an ideal technology for building the Internet of Things.”
More about the nRF9160 SiP
At just 10 x 16 x 1mm in size, the nRF9160 SiP is suitable for even compact wearable consumer and medical devices yet is a complete solution that integrates everything a cellular connection and IoT application may need beyond requiring just an external battery, SIM, and antenna.
To achieve this ultra-high integration Nordic partnered with Qorvo to make a System-in-Package that more closely resembles an integrated chip than a module. The nRF9160 SiP leverages Qorvo’s state-of-the-art, proven RF front-end, advanced packaging, and MicroShield™ technology to deliver a unique, ultra-compact solution that combines high performance with low power consumption. The nRF9160 SiP supports global operation with a single SiP variant thanks to the combination of Nordic’s multimode LTE-M / NB-IoT modem, SAW-less transceiver, and a custom RF front-end solution from Qorvo.
In parallel, the nRF9160 SiP is the first cellular IoT module to incorporate Arm’s latest Arm Cortex M-33 CPU core. This is supported by 1MB of Flash and 256kB of RAM on-board memory. The nRF9160 SiP is also the first module to incorporate Arm’s state-of-the-art Arm TrustZone and Arm CryptoCell security for Internet-level encryption and application protection. Both these technologies are designed for highly energy-efficient embedded IoT products that require the highest levels of performance in processing, power consumption, and security.
The nRF9160 SiP has 1MB of Flash plus 256 kB of RAM on-board memory with a broad range peripheral set, analog and digital interfaces, 32 GPIOs, a stand-alone modem with full LTE capability, plus a multiband RF front-end.
Another unique feature of the nRF9160 SiP in the cellular IoT module market is integrated GPS support to allow a combination of GPS and cellular data to be used for more accurate positioning than either technology is capable of when used in isolation.
How the world’s largest Bluetooth chip supplier came to be in cellular IoT
Nordic Semiconductor is best known for its leadership (both commercial and technological) in the global Bluetooth® chip market. The wide availability of the nRF9160 SiP module marks Nordic’s official – but brand new – entrance into the low power, cellular IoT wireless technology market.
Cellular is a notoriously complex wireless technology that only a handful of engineering teams worldwide truly have the expertise and experience to design at the architectural level. Nordic Semiconductor’s team all originated from outside the company when Nordic hired some of the smartest cellular R&D engineers in the world from a bout of rationalization layoffs in Finland between 2011 and 2014 from companies such as Nokia, Microsoft, Broadcom, and ST-Ericsson.
This means Nordic’s heritage in cellular wireless technology is on-par with any other company in the world: most of Nordic’s cellular IoT design team have been working in cellular design for most of their careers. And most importantly of all, all technical support for the nRF9160 SiP module will come from engineers who designed the product from the ground up.