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Scalable cellular radio in one form factor

Cellular modules from Sierra Wireless

When choosing the right radio solution for your development, you need to consider many requirements and factors.

Whether the market is industrial or commercial, in addition to radio technology, place of use, design and size of the components as well as power consumption and other performance characteristics, you should also consider in advance:

How long-living and future-proof are the selected components?
Especially in the areas of wireless technology and IoT, state of the art has advanced rapidly in the last 5 years. For a long time, 2G and 3G mobile radio technology was well suited for M2M applications - meanwhile, these mobile networks are already being switched off again and replaced by 4G and 5G cellular radio.

Place the future into current and future applications now.
Scalable solutions in particular give you the option of adapting applications quickly and easily to new requirements and new technologies.

These solutions in the future-proof CF3 form factor are briefly presented here:

CF3 - pin-compatible and scalable

SIERRA WIRELESS has developed the concept of the Common Flexible Form Factor CF3 for this purpose.

  • Common - across product generations
  • Flexible - to support  any wireless technology
  • Form - that scales between module families
  • Factor - with defined footprints and pin-outs

Currently, two sizes are used for mobile radio modules:

  • "Large" with 22 x 23 mm size
  • "Medium" with 15 x 18 mm size
RC series, WP series, HL78

Both sizes have contact pads with the same footprint and pin assignment as "Ring C". All signals necessary for the function such as power supply, SIM card, antenna connection, UART, USB and important control signals are assigned on this ring. These are defined uniformly for all modules.

On the "large" modules of the RC and WP series, there are additional contact pads in "Ring D". Additional, optional functions are assigned here.

funk modules in CF3 form factor

Wireless modules in CF3 form factor
SIERRA WIRELESS offers several product series in CF3 form factor for different applications with cellular radio including 2G, 3G and 4G as well as LPWA.

RC Series - 4G LTE for M2M applications
The RC series is the latest member of the "CF3 family".
The modules use the "Large" 22 x 23 mm design of the CF3 form factor with ring C and D.

Based on a chipset from Qualcomm, the RC76xx modules support 4G LTE. Two different variants are available:

  • LTE Cat. 4 with data rates of up to 150 Mbit/s downlink or 50 Mbit/s uplink
  • LTE Cat. 1 with data rates of up to 10 Mbit/s downlink or 5 Mbit/s uplink

Regional product variants support a variety of frequency bands for the use of the modules in EMEA, North America and APAC.

The RC Series modules also provide an easy upgrade path for applications originally designed for the 2G, 3G or 4G HL Series modules.

Furthermore, the RC Series modules include an integrated "eSIM". Together with SIERRA WIRELESS' "Ready to Connect" connectivity services, this allows you to remove the need for a separate SIM card.

The modules are also available as variants with an integrated GNSS receiver for positioning and tracking.

HL78xx - Low Power Wide Area with LTE-M and NB-IoT
The HL78xx modules with a chipset from Sony/Altair support the LPWA radio technologies LTE-M and NarrowBand-IoT. These technologies were specially developed for low-power IoT applications with rather low data rates.
Since such applications often also require a very compact design, the modules use the smaller "medium" CF3 form factor with only 15 x 18 mm.
Thanks to more than 20 supported frequency bands, the HL78xx modules can be used worldwide in LTE-M and NB-IoT networks. Some product variants also support 2G GSM/GPRS.
An "eSIM" chip is already integrated in the compact module too, so a separate SIM card can be omitted.

WP Series - The smart solution
With the WP Series, SIERRA WIRELESS combines a cellular modem and a powerful ARM Cortex A7 processor with embedded Linux in a compact package. This allows you to develop powerful applications with wireless connectivity in one component. An external processor can thus be omitted.
The outer "ring D" of contact pads of the 22 x 23 mm package provides signals for  a variety of additional functions. In addition to a second UART, further GPIOs and ADCs, there is also an SDIO interface.
The different module variants of the WP series support 4G LTE Cat 1 or Cat 4 mobile radio for use in different regions such as EMEA, America, APAC or LPWA mobile radio with LTE-M and NB-IoT.

Solder-On or Plug-In? It’s your choice
Generally, the modules in CF3 form factor are designed for direct soldering onto the PCB. This is typically used in mass production of devices.
For development and testing, however, it can be helpful to be able to exchange radio modules quickly and flexibly. SIERRA WIRELESS offers a snap-in socket for this purpose, into which the modules are inserted. A common layout can be used for the socket and the modules. In this way, you can use the flexibility of the socket for development and then directly solder on the modules in series production in a cost-optimised way.
However, the snap-in socket is not only intended as a development tool, but can also be used for series production. In some applications, a socket is deliberately used in order to flexibly use different modules in final production or to enable later retrofitting or conversion.

Conclusion – long-time proven and fit for the future
Since 2013, SIERRA WIRELESS provides modules in the CF3 form factor. The first modules for 2G GSM/GPRS cellular radio were soon joined by modules for 3G UMTS/HSPA and 4G LTE Cat 1 and Cat 4.
Thanks to the scalable form factor concept, it is easy to adapt existing applications for new radio technologies and areas of application by simply inserting the appropriate radio module.

RC series and WP series

Depending on the application, you can use modules with or without an integrated processor or open up new regions with your application. In doing so, you save yourself time-consuming redesigns of your hardware, which would otherwise often be necessary when changing components.

Take advantage of the SIERRA WIRELESS CF3 form factor concept and make your applications fit for the future of the IoT.

Together with GLYN-SUPPORT, your application will be a "mobile" success.

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