nRF9160 development status

Updated May 10th 2019.

This blog gives a snapshot of the development status of nRF9160 features, performance and qualification leading up to mass production.

Development

The nRF9160 hardware and development kits are now in production and is suitable for full end-to-end sensor to cloud development. We’re still developing features and optimizing performance and will be rolling out sampling and production as follows:

Software

December 12th 2018

April 30th 2019

May 10th

June 30th

LTE-M

Public Sampling

Production

NB-IoT

 

Public Sampling

Production

GPS

 

Public Sampling

Production

 

Firmware images are posted on the product page.

There are three variants of the nRF9160 supporting different radio technologies. Samples are available of nRF9160-SICA and you can buy devices for engineering builds from your distributor. The sampling and production schedules are as follows:

Hardware

Supported features

December 12th 2018

May 31st 2019

June 30th

nRF9160-SICA

LTE-M/NB-IoT/GPS

Public Sampling

Production

 

nRF9160-SIAA

LTE-M

 

Production

 

nRF9160-SIBA

NB-IoT

 

Production

 

Certifications

Certification status and roadmap is kept up-to-date on nordicsemi.com/9160cert

Silicon update

We had a few things to fix in the silicon, and not all changes have made it into sampled material yet. This does affect active current consumption for example. Please check out the nRF9160 SiP errata for more detail. nRF9160 SiPs where the issues have started shipping.

Coverage

GSMA keeps a good list of currently available LTE-M and NB-IoT networks globally here:

https://www.gsma.com/iot/mobile-iot-commercial-launches/

Most of them have also made it into a nice map here:

https://www.gsma.com/iot/deployment-map/

Application SDK

You can find the application SDK samples here:

https://github.com/NordicPlayground/fw-nrfconnect-nrf/tree/master/samples/nrf9160

There is also a more complete asset tracker application example here:

https://github.com/NordicPlayground/fw-nrfconnect-nrf/tree/master/applications/asset_tracker

Notable components tested and included: MQTT, CoAP, HTTP, secure BSD sockets, peripheral and DK board drivers

Notable todos: LWM2M, Modem DFU

Tracing

The modem can be traced through the application processor. The easiest way to get the traces out is through UART. The nRF Connect for Desktop has an app for that.

Development Kit and Reference Design

The nRF9160 DK serves as a software development platform, field testing tool and reference design. It is the vehicle for all of our certification testing which makes it valuable as a reference design.

Unfortunately, in versions before 0.8.5, matching components for the on-board GPS antenna on the DK were not optimal and will give poor to no functionality of the GPS. It is recommended to connect an external active GPS antenna to compensate. In order to use this, you will need:

  • Active external GPS antenna
  • Bias-Tee circuit
  • MXHS83QE3000 cable

How does the nRF9160 perform now

Though we have now made the nRF9160 publicly available for developers, it does not mean that we are done with the power optimizations. The functionality of eDRX and PSM is in place but we still have tuning to do in clock speeds of the different processing elements in the modem, further optimizations of scan algorithms etc. That being said, it already preforms really well on many parameters. Before we transfer the nRF9160 to production, we will release an updated firmware image that shows off the low power features of nRF9160 properly. But we’ll never stop chasing that last uJ of energy saving in the design…

PSM

PSM is typically used for applications that can wait 10 minutes or more between each time it connects to the network

  • PSM floor current of nRF9160 is now 7 uA It currently keeps retention on the same level as eDRX which secures a very quick startup, but consumes too much current in sleep
  • At the TTP date, the PSM current will be at 3uA with full retention of all relevant parameters. This will be done through software optimization of what is being retained, which will lead to slightly longer boot time.

After a PSM TAU, the device stays awake in connected mode and idle mode DRX for a while:

  • Connected DRX (320ms) = 2 mA average with SIM active
  • RRC Idle mode floor current is only 7uA due to low leakage memories

eDRX

DRX/eDRX is typically used for applications that require 10 minutes or lower latency on downlink traffic to the device or send data with that frequency.

  • eDRX/DRX floor current of nRF9160 is now 7 uA It keeps retains all the modem state, which secures a very quick startup.

The nRF9160 Errata on current affects these numbers adversely due to higher active current:

  • Idle DRX 2.56s = 239uA (SIM power off)
  • Idle DRX 2.56s = 285uA (SIM on clock stop)
  • eDRX 81.92s average current = 27uA (SIM power off)
  • eDRX 655.36s average current = 11uA (SIM power off)
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  • I've updated the dates for software deliveries. We're moving out some dates and pulling in others. I've also updated the information on what's currently in the SDK and requirements for the GPS workaround. 

    We're now received and will start shipping the updated silicon with the power consumption fix. 

    LTE-M is now working in 17 countries with the nRF9160-DK! 

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