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Qualcomm reveals tiny Linux-driven 5G NR chipset for IoT

May 21, 2021 — by Eric Brown — 2104 views

Qualcomm unveiled a “315 5G IoT Modem-RF” chipset designed for industrial IoT. The tiny chipset runs Linux on a 7nm Cortex-A7 core and offers global 5G NR sub-6GHz stand-alone support along with 4G LTE.

Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. announced its first cellular modem chipset designed specifically for Internet of Things applications. The industrial-focused Qualcomm 315 5G IoT Modem-RF System supports global 5G NR (New Radio) sub-6GHz bands, as well as 4G LTE. The chipset is sampling now and will be commercially available in the second half of the year. Qualcomm had some other 5G announcements this week, including the high-end, AI-enabled Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G 5G Mobile Platform and the Qualcomm Snapdragon X65 and X62 5G M.2 Reference Designs.

In a briefing with reporters earlier this week, Viery Vanghi, VP of Product Management at Qualcomm Europe, mentioned that the 315 5G chipset uses 7nm fabrication and is built around the power-efficient Cortex-A7 architecture. Qualcomm later confirmed to us that the chipset runs Linux.



Conceptual block diagram for Qualcomm 315 5G IoT Modem-RF (left) and security block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Although intended primarily for private networks used on industrial sites, the technology also supports public 5G networks, leveraging network slicing or in isolation. The chipset operates in 5G stand-alone (SA) only mode, which refers to using 5G cells for both signaling and data transfer to enable private network operatoin. The chipset also offers the capability to switch to LTE as needed.

The Qualcomm 315 5G IoT Modem-RF chipset is primarily intended for factories transitioning from wired to wireless connectivity. Other applications include retail, energy, precision agricultural, construction, mining, and public venues such as sports arenas.


The 315 5G chipset offers up to a 1.54Gbps data rate for 5G (3GPP Rel 15), while the 4G mode goes to 400Mbps. Other features include antenna tuning support and a dual-frequency GNSS location capability.

The combination of 7nm technology, Cortex-A7, and an efficient RF front-end design enables up to 50 percent smaller modules than existing models, claims Qualcomm. Vanghi also touted the chipset for its low power consumption and extended life maintenance through 2028 to 2030.

The Qualcomm 315 5G IoT Modem-RF “can be easily fitted onto industrial machines,” said Vanghi. “You can bolt it directly onto the chassis using existing holes.”

The small size will also make it easy for wireless module manufacturers to upgrade existing 4G modules, said Vanghi, mentioning support for 35 x 40mm module footprints. “The 315 is a pin-to-pin compatible solution for LTE legacy modules,” he added.

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Vanghi noted that the chipset has all the security features of Qualcomm’s premium 5G chipsets for smartphones, which would include the Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System. Security features include hardware-based cryptography, TrustZone, Qualcomm TEE, secure boot, secure storage and key provisioning, and debug security.

Qualcomm will initially target China and Europe, with Japan following in early 2022 before going global later that year. The company has already lined up five OEMs that promise to build the 315 5G into wireless modules. The OEMs comprise about 80 percent of the wireless module market, said Vanghi.


Quectel
RG500S and RM500S

Module manufacturers Fibocom, MeiG, Quectel, Sunsea, and Telit offered testimonial quotes along with device OEMs including Bosch, HMS, Siemens, and Schneider Electric. One notable absence was Sierra Wireless.

Quectel announced RG500S and RM500S modules based on the 315 5G, which appear to be named after classic Suzuki motorcycles. The modules are pin-to-pin compatible with Quectel’s LTE Cat 4 module EM05, Cat 6 module EM06, Cat 12 modules EM12-G/EM12xR-GL, Cat 16 module EM160R-GL, and 5G module RM500Q.

 
Further information

The Qualcomm 315 5G IoT modem is sampling now and expected to be commercially available in the second half of 2021. More information may be found in Qualcomm’s announcement.

 

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