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Pi add-on offers M.2 for 5G and mini-PCIe for 4G and NB-IoT

Jan 5, 2021 — by Eric Brown 12,865 views

Akari’s $69-and-up “Industrial 5G/4G Raspberry Pi Base Shield” has launched on Kickstarter with an M.2 slot for 5G and a mini-PCIe slot for 4G/NB-IoT. The kit offers 15KV ESD protection, RTC, DIO, USB, and serial I/O.

A two-year old Japanese firm called Akari has gone to Kickstarter to launch a 5G/4G add-on for the Raspberry Pi and 40-pin compatibles. The Industrial 5G/4G Raspberry Pi Base Shield starts at $69 for the PCB-only early bird, $99 with a shell (case), $185 with a shell and 4G/NB-IoT modem, and $399 with a shell and 5G modem. There are also volume discounts that include choice of shell color.

Industrial 5G/4G Raspberry Pi Base Shield with shell (left) and with Raspberry Pi
(click images to enlarge)

The Industrial 5G/4G Raspberry Pi Base Shield supports Raspberry Pi 3B, 4B, and Zero boards. It can also hook up to Radxa’s Rock Pi 4 and Nvidia’s Jetson Nano Dev Kit, which offer a Pi-compatible 40-pin GPIO.

Base Shield with Pi showing side view with copper pillars (left) and top views showing different wireless modules
(click images to enlarge)

The Base Shield integrates a SIM card slot and antenna and offers M.2 and mini-PCIe slots. The M.2 slot supports 5G modules such as the Fibocom FG100 module shown on the KS page.

The mini-PCIe slot supports 4G LTE Cat 4 and NB-IoT modules such as the Quectel EC25, which is found on Onion’s Omega2 LTE SBC. The mini-PCIe slot can also load WiFi 6 (802.11ax) and LoRa modules. Other 4G/NB-IoT add-ons for the Pi include Avnet’s Monarch Go Pi HAT.

Base Shield detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The Base Shield is further equipped with a USB port, which Akari recommends for adding an AI dongle such as the Intel’s Neural Compute Stick. You can only use one of the three main features — 5G, 4G, or USB — at a time.


Other features include RS232/RS485/RS422, DIO, RTC, buzzer, and reset and power buttons. The detail view shows the Raspberry Pi’s HDMI ports and audio jack, and the KS page suggests you can also use the CSI interface and other Pi features.

The product, which we saw on Geeky Gadgets, has already passed CE/FCC certification for 15KV ESD protection. The device offers a 9-24V input for a more stable power supply, and copper pillars are used to separate the Base Shield from the Pi for better heat dissipation.

Further information

The Industrial 5G/4G Raspberry Pi Base Shield is available on Kickstarter through Jan. 30 starting at $69. Prices will rise sharply after that. Shipments are due in March. More information may be found on Akari’s Kickstarter page.

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