LTE-M Dev Kit to Accelerates a New Wave of Cellular IoT

Article By : Dan Jones

Avnet, Verizon, Sequans, NXP, and Microsoft combine to make it less expensive and easier to bring cellular IoT products quickly to market...

Avnet, Verizon, Sequans, NXP Semiconductors, and Microsoft are collaborating to supply device developers with the elements they need to create LTE-M-based cellular IoT products, bring them quickly to market, and save them time and money.

The firms are introducing an LTE-M development kit based around the “Monarch Go” IoT modem from Sequans. As well as the modem, the kit includes NXP’s LPC55S69 microcontroller, and Verizon’s SIM ThingSpace platform. The package provides support for Microsoft’s Azure cloud software, as well as access to Avnet engineering expertise.

Much of the early hype around IoT predicting that millions, or even billions, of cellular (LTE-M or NB-IoT) devices would arrive on the market has not yet come to pass. Part of the reason for that is the exorbitant costs associated with developing a cellular IoT device and getting it up and running on a modern commercial network.

“In general, it can take between 9-12 months to develop a cellular IoT device from scratch and can cost up to $2 million, including tooling and certification,” Ericsson wrote in a blog on October 20, 2020. “It is an expensive undertaking for small and medium enterprises to build cellular IoT-enabled devices from pre-development to market introduction,” the Swedish cellular provider noted. In spite of such development hurdles, the globe is now covered with cellular networks that support IoT devices. The GSA recently reported that there are over 154 cellular IoT networks now live (supporting LTE-M or NB-IoT), operated by 123 operators, in 59 countries worldwide.

Clearly, an inexpensive development kit that can be used to produce and certify an LTE-M device, enable it to run on a commercial LTE network right out of the box, and deliver data created on that unit to a cloud software platform would make the pathway to cellular IoT much simpler.

Sequans expects that the new development kit would reduce initial costs by more than half. The pre-integrated solution can drastically decrease development times. It accelerates the prototyping process so that it be completed in a matter of hours, rather than taking weeks, according to Nick Taluja, VP, head of sales and field operations for Sequans. The integrated and pre-tuned LTE antenna in the kit avoids the significant cost of complex antenna design. “Because Monarch Go is end-device certified, you avoid all the time and cost of taking your product through the very lengthy and demanding operator certification process, which can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months,” Taluja explains. The kit also enables device developers to avoid the ancillary costs of tools for RF calibration, product testing, and more.

“I estimate that an IoT company can save 50-70 percent of what is typically spent on bringing an IoT device to market,”  Taluja says.

The Monarch LTE-M Development Kit is available now for $99. Avnet will support the development kit worldwide.

Paris, France-based chip designer Sequans started its working relationship with Verizon in January 2013, when the carrier certified one of the silicon expert’s broadband LTE chips to run on its network. Verizon began using the company’s Monarch cellular IoT modems on its network in 2017.

In February 2020, Verizon launched Sequans’ Monarch Go, a “modem component,” equipped with a specialized LTE antenna and Verizon’s ThingSpace-enabled IoT SIM. Monarch Go offers device makers the shortest possible route to market by eliminating additional lengthy and expensive design and testing times.

Since the first certification of Monarch by Verizon in 2017, the IoT modem has been certified by cellular operators such as AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Telus, and T-Mobile US.

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