Microchip Produces the First Bluetooth 4.2-Compliant Devices: The RN4870 and RN4871

June 27, 2016 by Dr. Steve Arar

Microchip emerges as the first to release next-generation Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices by unveiling the RN4870 and RN4871.

Microchip emerges as the first to release next-generation Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices by unveiling the RN4870 and RN4871.

Microchip is a well-known manufacturer of microcontroller, analog, mixed-signal and interface components. As a leader in Bluetooth technology, Microchip is the first company to offer devices which support Bluetooth 4.2 specifications.


Image courtesy of Microchip.

The RN4870 and RN4871 are a complete solution for experiencing Bluetooth 4.2 low-energy connectivity. This series of BLE devices, which are based on Microchip’s IS187x (PDF) Bluetooth low-energy ICs, integrate all of the required blocks such as a Bluetooth 4.2 baseband controller, an onboard Bluetooth stack, analog and digital I/O, the RF power amplifier, and an onboard chip antenna.

As a result, these products are able to offer an easy-to-use solution to embedded system design. Moreover, this family of BLE devices has a compact form factor with four different sizes from 6mm × 8mm to 12mm × 22mm.

Image courtesy of Microchip.

The RN4870U and RN4871U are the compact, unshielded options of this series and are suitable for designs that need to either bring down product size as much as possible or use a remotely-located antenna. The external antenna use is possible by means of an RF pad.


Image courtesy of Microchip.

Bluetooth 4.2 Compliance

Microchip, which had previously developed the RN4020 (PDF) module for Bluetooth 4.1, has now announced its Bluetooth 4.2-compliant devices.

Bluetooth 4.2, which was released on December 2, 2014, is one of the latest versions of BLE. Compared to classic Bluetooth, BLE aims at dramatically reducing power consumption without sacrificing communication range. In addition to cutting power consumption down, Bluetooth 4.2 has developed some key features to support the IoT. Although older Bluetooth devices may use some features of Bluetooth 4.2 via firmware updates, there are some hardware-related features of the new version of Bluetooth which mandate hardware updates.

Compared with the previous Bluetooth modules, which were based on Bluetooth 4.0 standard, the RN4870 and RN4871 devices provide an improvement of data throughput by a factor of 2.5.

According to Steve Caldwell, vice president of Microchip's Wireless Solutions Group, their new products will help Internet-of-Things developers to come up with better end applications, burning a smaller amount of power.

Standalone Operation

Integration of the RN4870 and RN4871 devices into different applications is possible by means of a two- or four-wire UART interface. With an onboard software stack and a scripting engine, the new devices are able to communicate with any microcontroller which has a UART interface, including Microchip’s large range of low-power microcontrollers.

However, there are simple applications such as basic data collection and communication where a microcontroller is not required. In such applications, the new modules can operate in a standalone manner by utilizing the on-board scripting.

Similar to other RN-style components, some simple ASCII commands can be used by the host microcontroller to configure the newly-introduced devices. This eliminates the need for complicated code compilations.

Standards and Qualifications

For the latest BLE devices Microchip has developed, connection security has been considered based on the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS). These devices are Bluetooth SIG qualified and include FCC modular certification. They are also approved by the regulations of most governments worldwide. A list of the latest certifications for these products is available here.

Microchip, which has a diverse range of Bluetooth-certified solutions for embedded system design, was the first to offer Bluetooth 4.2-compliant silicon, modules, and software. The latest products released by Microchip will significantly reduce the design complexity and also speed up the go-to-market process.