nRF7002 – The New WiFi chip

nRF7002 Dual Band WiFi6 chip from Nordic Semiconductor
nRF7002 Dual Band WiFi6 chip from Nordic Semiconductor

Nordic Semiconductor launched a new WiFi chip last week, nRF7002. They haven’t released the entire information about this chip. It’s in bits and pieces in their press release. Based on what I could gather it’s a low-power, dual-band(2.4GHz and 5GHz) WiFi-6 compatible chip with a physical throughput of 86Mbps in data transfer speeds. On the surface, this looks great for high-throughput WiFi applications. But this seems to work only as a co-processor. Standing alone it can only do Wi-Fi physical layer and MAC layer protocols. It needs an application processor to do the rest of the logic processing. It can be used with Nordic’s usual nRF52, 53 series chips or any other controller out there. This chip interfaces to the application processor via QSPI/SPI. Seems there is a preview development kit(But not available anywhere to buy currently though). If you check the image, there is an nRF7002 on the bottom right which is paired with an nRF5340 chip running the WiFi Stack.

nRF7002 Preview Development Kit with nRF7002(WiFi) + nRF5340(SoC)

Why does all of this matter? Nordic is known for putting out power-efficient and really low-power devices. So there is hope in the community that someone can pull up a relatively low-power WiFi chip. The problem I see with the chip(based on the limited info out there) is that it can’t work as a standalone chip like let a say ESP32 series or a TI WiFi chip. So this chip needs to be really cheap in price so as to make sense. I am sure they are probably working on a dual processor nRF7 series chip which can be totally standalone. Since it’s their first WiFi chip, I do expect issues. But let’s see. The great part is that it can support 5GHz so that won’t use up your 2.4GHz Bluetooth spectrum. SDK also seems to be in very early stages as expected. I am just hoping they improve their documentation because when they launched their first Bluetooth chips, it was pretty bad. It has evolved over the years though. But I have to give them credit for their developer forums, they are exceptionally good and responsive.

Hoping that they are able to pull off a great WiFi chip to compete with ESP32. They are among the very few to have BLE, Cellular and WiFi chips in their lineup. The full Silicon chip launch is slated for the end of the year or early next year.

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Direct to Mobile: Streaming Videos Without Internet

Last month there was a conclave at IIT Kanpur with Prasar Bharati which might have set the ground rules for one of the interesting tech that could come into the Indian market in the future. It’s Direct to Mobile(D2M) wherein video data can be pushed directly to mobiles without WiFi or Mobile data. This enables the Prasar Bharati(PB) to deliver content to anyone with a mobile potentially free of cost for govt content like broadcasting of infos of national importance. I guess an eventual model will be to charge private players slots to stream their OTT services to a large population when a critical limit is reached. The frequency band of 526-582 MHz is entirely being earmarked by the Govt just for D2M and TV broadcast. Since its a dedicated link in the video buffering issues won’t be there.

The white paper released on this doesn’t go much into the details of the technology used. The tech seems to piggyback on ATSC 3.0(called NextGen TV) standards. Seems that this was field trialled in South Korea in the 2017 Olympics. In a PoC demo at the event, they showed streaming services with an SDR NextGen chip with a USB dongle antenna hardware plugged into a mobile phone antenna with a WiFi gateway. Saankhya Labs is providing the hardware for it with their Broadcast Radio Head (BRH) solution. They seem to have a small live rollout in Bangalore.

So OK what does it mean for you and me? If there is a govt push towards this tech, I think we might see mobile manufacturers putting up a new chip on your phone to enable this streaming option. But I would say it will take quite a bit of time before that happens. All of this doesn’t mean that you don’t need mobile towers/similar to make this data reach your phone, it’s just it will use multiple lower power transmitters to deliver this from the backend. That infrastructure would also need to be upgraded. So there are a lot of hurdles ahead but technology is promising and too soon give a verdict on it.

PS: The image of this post was entirely simulated and generated real time by AI from DALL-E. That picture doesn’t exist. More on that later.

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