Qualcomm unveils "power-efficient" single-mode NB2 chipset for IoT

The modem will be available by the end of the year and will usher in a new era for a range of applications, the company said.

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Qualcomm announced on Thursday that it is releasing a new chipset designed to help spur the burgeoning growth of the IoT market. The Qualcomm 212 LTE IoT modem, a single-mode NB2 (NB-IoT) chipset, was called the "world's most power-efficient" by Vieri Vanghi, Qualcomm Europe's vice president of product management.

During a call, Vanghi explained that the dime-sized chips are targeted toward applications "that are more cost sensitive and devices that are constrained in footprint space as well as power consumption."

"The Qualcomm 212 LTE IoT Modem will help usher in a new era for a range of IoT applications around the globe, especially those requiring connectivity deep within buildings combined with low power use, like battery-powered IoT devices that need to operate for 15 years or longer in the field," Vanghi said. 

"Its ultra-low power consumption, compact form factor, and low cost will greatly benefit OEMs creating the next generation of low-power IoT devices." 

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The chipset's architecture directly addresses the problem of power efficiency, which Vanghi said was a top concern for IoT devices that must spend years out in the world. 

The Qualcomm 212 LTE IoT modem needs less than one micro-amp (1uA) of sleep current and supports a wide range of batteries while coupling ultra-low system-level cut-off voltages with provisions for adapting power usage according to varying source power levels.

In addition to power efficiency, Vanghi noted that the chipset supports single-mode 3GPP Release 14 Cat. NB2 IoT connectivity, enabling extended coverage for delay tolerant applications on RF frequency bands spanning from 700MHz to 2.1GHz for global roaming. 

Its miniature size allows Qualcomm to spend little on materials and enables the company to churn the chipsets out quickly. Because of an integrated ARM Cortex M3 application processor, and the native set of IoT data networking protocols, the chipset can enable embedded IoT applications, according to a statement from Qualcomm. 

"The expansion of low-power wide-area networks around the world is opening the door to massive IoT use cases and applications that weren't possible or practical before. We're aiming to make that easier for our customers–through access to the world's largest NB-IoT footprint and through a leading-edge modem and chipset portfolio," said Cameron Coursey, vice president of Advanced Solutions at AT&T. 

"The Qualcomm 212 LTE IoT Modem will help unlock new possibilities for enterprises on NB-IoT networks through efficiencies in cost, power usage and form factor," Coursey said. "We look forward to validating the chipset for the AT&T network."

Roanne Sones, corporate vice president at Microsoft, added in a statement that the company has been working with Qualcomm for years and uses the chipsets in a variety of technologies that "connect the intelligent edge and intelligent cloud."

"From industries like energy to transportation to smart cities, the ability to leverage low-power and low-cost chipsets is a critical part of helping our joint customers deploy new telemetry, tracking and other edge solutions with long battery life while also leveraging our Azure IOT platform and hyperscale cloud infrastructure," Sones said.

Vanghi said Qualcomm would also be launching a software development kit designed specifically for the new chipset, which will help developers run custom software on the integrated applications processor.

The new Qualcomm 212 LTE IoT modem will be available widely by the second half of 2020.

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