Nordic Semiconductor Rolls Out Its First Wi-Fi IC
Complementing its existing wireless IoT offerings, Nordic Semiconductor has unveiled a dual-band Wi-Fi 6 companion chip.
For years, the name Nordic Semiconductor has been synonymous with wireless connectivity chipsets. Indeed, the company’s line of cellular and Bluetooth ICs have been staples in the industry, especially in embedded and the Internet-of-Things (IoT) applications.
That said, the company lacked any offerings for Wi-Fi connectivity. Different but tangential, Wi-Fi is the final leg of the wireless trio that connects almost every connected device worldwide. Last week, Nordic changed that narrative with the release of its first Wi-Fi chip.
In this article, we’ll talk about Nordic’s foray into Wi-Fi as well as the new product offering just brought to market.
Acquisition of Imagination Technologies’s Wi-Fi Tech
For decades, Nordic Semiconductor has been a leader in the wireless industry, but still did not have a Wi-Fi offering to its name.
In 2020, Nordic Semi’s CEO, CFO, and HR director are shown here welcoming the company’s first Wi-Fi employees from its Imagination Technologies acquisition. Image used courtesy of Nordic Semiconductor
While Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are similar in that they’re both wireless communication technologies, developing chipsets for each technology requires a highly different set of expertise. For this reason, despite Nordic’s cellular and Bluetooth success, a Wi-Fi offering was not part of its mix.
To address this gap, Nordic made a big move in 2020 when it acquired tech assets from Imagination Technologies Group (ITG). Specifically, Nordic acquired ITG’s entire Wi-Fi development team, core Wi-Fi expertise, and Wi-Fi IP of the company. With this move, Nordic brought a depth of expertise into its sphere, and with it, it began its entry into the Wi-Fi market.
A Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 Companion IC
Now, over two years since that acquisition, Nordic’s work has finally come to fruition with the introduction of their first-ever Wi-Fi IC, a dual-band Wi-Fi 6 device.
The product, called the nRF7002, is described as a Wi-Fi companion IC, meaning it is designed to provide Wi-Fi connectivity and related functionality to existing Nordic products. Essentially, unlike other Nordic solutions, which incorporate compute and connectivity into a single SoC, the nRF7002 is strictly for connectivity.
Currently, the list of ICs that are compatible with the nRF7002 includes the nRF52 and nRF53 Bluetooth SoCs and the nRF91 cellular SiP, although Nordic claims that the device can also be used with non-Nordic host devices.
The nRF7002 is a dual-band Wi-Fi 6 device that is designed to work alongside Nordic SoCs. Image used courtesy of Nordic Semiconductor
The device, which comes in a 6 mm x 6 mm QFN package, is said to be optimized for low power operation, security, and coexistence with Bluetooth LE. While no data sheets are publicly available yet, what we do know is that the IC itself is a dual-band (in other words 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) offering and includes support for Wi-Fi 6 with 20 MHz channel widths and a 64 QAM, 86 Mbps PHY throughput. Other notable features include target wake time functionality, support for 1 spatial stream, and support for OFDMA uplink and downlink.
The nRF7002 DK is a single-board development kit for doing evaluation and development on the new nRF7002 Wi-Fi chip. Image used courtesy of Nordic Semiconductor
To enable engineers to get started working with the new Wi-Fi device, Nordic offers a development kit. Called the nRF7002 DK, the product is a single-board development kit. The board provides two external oscillators, including a slow clock 32.768 kHz unit, and a main clock at 32 MHz.
Focus on Wireless Connectivity for IoT
With the introduction of its Wi-Fi chip, Nordic has become one of the only companies in the world that offers Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular connectivity offerings with a focus on IoT use cases. So far, the product is available for samples with plans for production availability in the near future.