Nordic Semi : SoC transceivers target price-sensitive market

Ultra low power (ULP) RF specialist Nordic Semiconductor ASA releases a pair of low cost one time programmable (OTP) variants of its leading nRF24LE1 and nRF24LU1+ 2.4GHz ULP wireless system-on-chip (SoC) solutions: the nRF24LE1 OTP and nRF24LU1+ OTP.

These new OTP product variants complement Nordic’s existing solutions by targeting the most fiercely price sensitive, yet typically highest volume consumer segments of the ULP wireless market such as entry-level wireless PC peripherals (mice and keyboards), remote controls and toys. In addition, fierce price constraints for low end products in these sectors that currently do employ wireless connectivity have restricted manufacturers to cheap 27MHz transceivers: Now these 2.4GHz low price options from Nordic make a technically superior alternative available to these manufacturers.  

Based on the same technology platform as the nRF24LE1 and nRF24LU1+ flash products, the new nRF24LE1 OTP and nRF24LU1+ OTP (or OTPs for short) still feature Nordic’s high-performance ULP nRF24L01+ transceiver core, enhanced 8051 microcontroller (MCU), lower power oscillators, hardware AES security, and a wide range of application peripherals and interfaces. Both the nRF24LE1 OTP and nRF24LU1+ OTP integrate 16kBytes of program OTP and 1kByte of data OTP. With a fully integrated charge pump the OTP is writable from the chip’s MCU enabling the data OTP to be used for emulating non-volatile memory when required (e.g. to retain pairing information during a battery change).

The nRF24LE1 OTP and nRF24LU1+ OTP inherit the ULP operating characteristics of their flash-based sister products enabling extended operation from small capacity batteries such as AAA or coin cell types. For example, current consumption of the nRF24LE1+ OTP while transmitting is just 11.1mA (at 0dBm output power) and peak receive current is 13.3mA (at 2Mbps). Average current is in the microampere range (for a typical low duty cycle operation). (See “About the nRF24LE1 OTP” and “About the nRF24LU1+ OTP” below for more detailed technical information).

“These new OTP-based 2.4GHz SoC solutions represent a giant leap forward for the ULP wireless market,” says Thomas Embla Bonnerud, Product Manager for Ultra Low Power Wireless at Nordic Semiconductor. “This is because their pricing will further accelerate the adoption of ULP wireless solutions into products that may once have not been able to enjoy the benefits of wireless connectivity on the basis of cost. The new devices will also accelerate the replacement of low end 27MHz products – such as cheaper wireless mice and keyboards – with technically superior 2.4GHz wireless connectivity now that the cost barrier has been removed.”  

“In addition, brand new market segments will now be able to take advantage of our ULP wireless technology and enjoy the unique price, performance and ULP power benefits (i.e. the ability to be powered by small, coin cell (watch) batteries) that our class-leading, single chip SoCs provide. This also includes being able to use our full range of development tools, reference designs and the Gazell™ protocol stack. In fact with these two products, ULP wireless has never been more accessible.”

About the nRF24LE1 OTP (one time programmable)

The nRF24LE1 OTP integrates a fully-featured nRF24L01+ 2.4GHz transceiver core including Nordic’s proven Enhanced ShockBurst™ hardware link layer. It delivers true ultra low power (ULP) operation with peak currents low enough to run on coin cell (watch) batteries. (Tx is 11.1mA at 0dBm output power, Rx 13.3mA at 2Mbps, and average current is in microamp range for typical low duty cycle operation.)  

The nRF24LE1 OTP also integrates an enhanced 8051 mixed signal microcontroller (MCU) core featuring fewer clock cycles per instruction than legacy 8051 devices. Most instructions need just one or two clock cycles leading to an average performance improvement of 8X using the MIPS (million instructions per second) benchmark. This high performance combined with 16kBytes of on-chip program OTP, 1kByte of on-chip data OTP, plus 1kByte of SRAM, ensures the processing platform is powerful enough to run both the RF protocol stack and application layer with ease.

A wide range of peripherals and power saving modes support the RF protocol stack. A ULP 32kHz crystal oscillator provides high accuracy timing for low report rate synchronous protocols and a 16MHz RC oscillator provides fast start-up times from idle. The 32kHz oscillator can provide timing accurate enough for higher report rate protocols without requiring an external crystal. A security co-processor supports AES encrypted wireless communication. The nRF24LE1 OTP provides a range of nanoamp and microamp idle modes specifically designed for ULP RF protocol stacks. Further benefits include higher precision protocol timing, lower power consumption, and improved co-existence performance.

For the application layer the nRF24LE1 OTP offers a rich set of interfaces and peripherals including an SPI, 2-wire, UART, 12-bit ADC, PWM and an analog comparator. As such, the nRF24LE1 OTP is the ideal single chip solution for cost sensitive wireless applications including mice, keyboards, remote controls, game controllers, sports/healthcare sensors, toys, and active RFID tags.

The nRF24LE1 OTP is available in three package options. The tiny 4x4mm 24-pin QFN option is by far the smallest ULP SoC solution available on the market today and provides 7 programmable generic I/O pins. For applications where more I/O pins are needed the nRF24LE1 OTP is also available in a 5x5mm 32-pin QFN with 15 generic I/O pins, and a 7x7mm 48-pin QFN with 29 generic I/O pins.

About the nRF24LU1+ OTP (one time programmable)

The nRF24LU1+ OTP integrates a fully featured nRF24L01+ 2.4GHz transceiver core including Nordic’s proven Enhanced ShockBurst™ hardware link layer. It delivers a unique combination of best-in-class co-existence performance and ultra low power (ULP) operation.

By also integrating a full-speed USB 2.0 compliant device controller with an 8-bit microcontroller (MCU), 16kByte of on-chip program OTP, 1kByte of on-chip data OTP, 2kByte of SRAM, and an AES encryption engine, the nRF24LU1+ OTP provides a single chip USB dongle solution with a minimal external bill of materials (BOM). This includes an integrated voltage regulator that allows the chip to be powered directly from a USB bus, removing the requirement for an external voltage regulator. The only external components the nRF24LU1+ OTP chip requires are a low cost 16MHz crystal, decoupling, matching network, and antenna.

The nRF24LU1+ OTP is an ideal single chip solution for ultra compact USB dongles for ULP wireless peripherals.

Development tools

A full range of development tools support the nRF24LE1 OTP and nRF24LU1+ OTP. The development kits are the same as for the existing nRF24LE1 and nRF24LU1+ flash variants, and special instructions are provided on how to write code that is binary compatible with the OTP parts.

In addition, the nRFgo Flash/OTP Programming Adapter Kit includes an expansion module for the nRFgo Starter Kit and enables both programming of un-mounted parts with a socket as well as programming of mounted parts with a patch cable.

Availability and pricing

Production samples of nRF24LU1+ OTP, plus 5x5mm and 7x7mm nRF24LE1 OTP are available today. The 4x4mm nRF24LE1 OTP will be available in late October.

The nRF24LU1+ OTP, 4x4mm and 5x5mm nRF24LE1 OTP are priced at USD $1.30 in 10K unit shipments. The 7x7mm nRF24LE1 OTP is priced at USD $1.50 in 10K unit shipments.

About Nordic Semiconductor ASA

Nordic Semiconductor is a fabless semiconductor company specializing in ultra-low power (ULP) short-range wireless communication. Nordic is a public company listed on the Norwegian stock exchange.

Nordic provides RF silicon solutions including:

• Highly integrated RF silicon
• Sophisticated and flexible development tools
• Application specific communication software
• Complete reference designs

The company’s innovative range of wireless solutions includes:

• The nRF24LE1™ single-chip, ultra-low cost and power, fully integrated 2.4GHz transceiver with radio, microprocessor, flash memory and MultiCeiver™ technology supporting up to six simultaneous wireless devices;
• The nRF24L01+™ ultra-low cost and power 2.4GHz transceiver with MultiCeiver technology supporting up to six simultaneous wireless devices;
• The nRF24LU1+™ single chip 2.4GHz transceiver with full-speed USB, microcontroller and flash memory enabling ultra-compact USB dongles for wireless peripherals;
• The nRF24AP2™ ultra-low power 2.4GHz transceiver for wireless communication with Dynastream Innovation’s production-proven low-power network protocol, ANT™;
• The nRF24E1™ and nRF24E2™ low cost transceivers paired with an industry standard 8051 MCU core, and leading peripherals to create the world’s first complete low cost SoCs for global 2.4GHz operation;
• The nRF24Z1™ single-chip system for CD quality audio streaming of up to 16-bit, 48-kHz audio;
• The nRF905™ single-chip multiband radio transceiver for the 433, 868 or 915MHz ISM band;
• The nRF9E5™ low-cost, single-chip system with fully integrated RF transceiver for the 433, 868 or 915MHz ISM band.

Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF24xx range of 2.4GHz transceiver and transmitter devices are aimed at applications such as PC peripherals such as wireless keyboards/mice, game controllers, intelligent sports equipment and wireless audio (for example, mp3 and portable CD player headphones and PC speakers). The latest nRF24LE1 family, for instance, is targeted at ultra-low cost and power applications such as wireless desktops and intelligent (for example, wristwatch-based) sports equipment.

Nordic is an associate member of the Bluetooth SIG and has contributed core expertise in ultra-low power RF design to the forthcoming specification for Bluetooth low energy wireless technology (formerly ultra low power Bluetooth). Bluetooth low energy wireless technology is a short range RF communication technology featuring ultra-low power consumption, a lightweight protocol stack and simple integration with Bluetooth® wireless technology chips. Bluetooth low energy wireless technology ushers in the next generation of RF communications by opening up many new opportunities for wireless data links between suitably equipped mobile phones or personal computers (PCs) and coin cell battery-powered devices such as sports and health sensors.

Nordic’s products are all manufactured in ultra modern semiconductor process technologies through strong relationships with world-best manufacturing facilities. Sales are primarily made through a carefully selected worldwide distribution network. The company has offices in Trondheim and Oslo, Norway, the US (west coast), Hong Kong, Korea and Japan, and is listed on the Norwegian Stock Exchange (OSX: NOD). All operations are managed according to the ISO 9001:2000-approved quality assurance system.

Nordic Semiconductor ASA


Note: The above text is the public part of the press release obtained from the manufacturer (with minor modifications). EETimes Europe cannot be held responsible for the claims and statements made by the manufacturer. The text is intended as a supplement to the new product presentations in EETimes Europe magazine.

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