Nordic Semi nRF9160 : Low Power LTE-M and NB-IoT Wireless Modem for Cellular IoT Applications

Nordic Semiconductor's nRF9160 is a low power LTE-M and NB-IoT wireless modem available in a small footprint System-in-Package and is targeted for Cellular IoT applications.
nRF9160 SiP

Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF9160 System-in-Package (SiP) is a low power LTE-M and NB-IoT wireless modem intended for cellular Internet-of-Things (IoT) applications. Measuring just 10x16x1 mm in LGA package, the module also includes an assisted GPS for location tracking. This eschews the need for separate GNSS modules and makes it ideal for battery powered portable devices. nRF9160 uses the single core Arm Cortex-M33 processor running at 64MHz and integrates 1MB flash memory and 256kB RAM. The module is pre-certified for worldwide operation and costs around INR 1500 at Mouser.


  • Fully integrated SiP for cellular IoT
  • Dedicated application processor and memory
  • Multimode LTE-M/NB-IoT modem with integrated RFFE
  • Assisted GPS
  • Single variant certified for global operation
  • Certified LTE bands: B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B8, B12, B13, B14, B17, B18, B19, B20, B25, B26, B28 and B66
  • Mobile network operator certifications: AIS, AT&T, Bell, China Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Telstra, Verizon and Vodafone
  • Global and regulatory certifications: GCF, PTCRB, FCC, CE, ISED, ACMA RCM, NCC, IMDA, MIC, MSIP, IFT, ICASA, NBTC
  • Overview of all certifications:
  • 10x16x1 mm LGA package
  • LTE-M/NB-IoT Modem
    • Integrated RFFE
    • 700-2200 MHz LTE band support
    • 23 dBm output power
    • Assisted GPS
    • eDRX and PSM power saving modes
    • Coverage enhancement modes
    • SMS, IPv4/IPv6
    • Single pin 50 Ω antenna interface
    • UICC interface
  • Application Processor
    • 64 MHz Arm® Cortex®-M33 CPU
    • Arm TrustZone® for trusted execution
    • Arm CryptoCell 310 for accelerated cryptography
    • 1 MB Flash & 256 KB RAM
    • 4 x SPI/UART/TWI
    • PDM, I2S, PWM, ADC
    • Automated power and clock management
    • 32 GPIOs


  • Microcontroller
    • ARM® Cortex® -M33
      • 243 EEMBC CoreMark score running from flash memory
      • Data watchpoint and trace (DWT), embedded trace macrocell (ETM), and instrumentation trace macrocell (ITM)
      • Serial wire debug (SWD)
      • Trace port
    • 1 MB flash
    • 256 kB low leakage RAM
    • ARM® Trustzone®
    • ARM® Cryptocell 310
    • Up to 4x SPI with EasyDMA
    • Up to 4x I2C compatible two-wire with EasyDMA
    • Up to 4x UART (CTS/RTS) with EasyDMA
    • I2S with EasyDMA
    • Digital microphone interface (PDM) with EasyDMA
    • 4x pulse width modulator (PWM) unit with EasyDMA
    • 12-bit, 200 ksps ADC with EasyDMA – eight configurable channels with programmable gain
    • 3x 32-bit timer with counter mode
    • 2x real-time counter (RTC)
    • Programmable peripheral interconnect (PPI)
    • 32 general purpose I/O pins
    • Single supply voltage: 3.0 – 5.5 V
    • All necessary clock sources integrated
    • Package: 10 × 16 x 1.04 mm LGA
  • LTE Modem
    • Transceiver and baseband
    • Frequency range: 700-2200 MHz
    • 3GPP LTE release 13 Cat-M1 and Cat-NB1 compliant
      • 3GPP release 13 coverage enhancement
    • 3GPP LTE release 14 Cat-NB2 compliant
    • GPS receiver
      • GPS L1 C/A supported
    • RF transceiver for global coverage
      • Up to 23 dBm output power
      • -108 dBm sensitivity (LTE-M) for low band, -107 dBm for mid band
      • Single 50 Ω antenna interface
    • RX sensitivity
      • LTE-M: -108 dBm
      • NB-IoT: -114 dBm
      • GPS: -155 dBm
    • Throughput (DL/UL)
      • LTE-M: 300/375 kbps
      • NB-IoT: 30/60 kbps
    • LTE band support in hardware:
      • Cat-M1: B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B8, B12, B13, B14, B17, B18, B19, B20, B25, B26, B28, B66
      • Cat-NB1/NB2: B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B8, B12, B13, B17, B19, B20, B25, B26, B28, B66
    • Supports SIM and eSIM with an ETSI TS 102 221 compatible UICC interface
    • Power saving features: DRX, eDRX, PSM
    • IP v4/v6 stack
    • Secure socket (TLS/DTLS) API
  • Current consumption @ 3.7 V and 23dBm TX power:
    • Power saving mode (PSM) floor current: 2.7 µA
    • eDRX @ 82.91s: 18 µA in Cat-M1, 37 µA in Cat-NB1 (UICC included)
  • Operating temperature: -40-85 °C


  • Sensor networks
  • Logistics and asset tracking
  • Smart energy
  • Smart building automation
  • Smart agriculture
  • Industrial
  • Retail and monitor devices
  • Medical devices
  • Wearables
nRF9160 Application Circuit

The nRF9160 could be used as a standalone system that runs both the networks stack and the application stack. Modem firmware pre-compiled binaries are directly available from Nordic at no cost. That means, the developer has to only write application code. The application and network firmwares can be combined and flashed to the module. The nRF Connect for Desktop application can be used to flash the firmware. Moreover, the modem firmware can be updated though Over-the-Air (OTA) update securely. There are 32 GPIOs and a rich set of other peripherals including 12-bit ADC, RTC, SPI, I²C, I²S, UARTE, PDM and PWM to interface multiple sensors, input and output devices. If more IO features and processing throughput are needed, the nRF9160 can be used a modem only.

The integrated modem supports LTE-M (Long Term Evolution for Machines) and NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT), both designed for low power and low throughput applications. The modem supports all bands used worldwide, thus removing any regional restrictions. nRF9160 supports both SIM and eSIM for network connection. The LTE-M has a download/upload throughput of 300/375 kbps and NB-IoT has a lower 30/60 kbps data rate. 4G service providers Airtel and JIO supports NB-IoT and LTE-M in India and provide eSIM facilities.

Application development can be carried out using two official boards – the nRF9160 DK (PCA10090) and Nordic Thingy:91. The nRF9160 DK comes with GPS antenna and a SIM. In addition to these, other development boards are available from manufactures like Sparkfun. These boards are listed further below.

nRF9160 Block Diagram

nRF9160 Block Diagram

nRF9160 Pinout

nRF9160 Pinout Diagram

nRF9160 Reference Schematic

nRF9160 Reference Schematic

List of nRF9160 Development Boards and Modules

  1. nRF9160 DK
  2. Nordic Thingy:91
  3. nRF9160 INNBLUE21
  4. Icarus IoT Board
  5. µSoM-700
  6. Circuit Dojo – nRF9160 Feather
  7. Swift Labs Design Blocks
  8. Avnet AVT9152 Module
  9. Icarus Bee (nRF9160)
  10. SparkFun Thing Plus – nRF9160
nRF9160 Development Kit with SIM


  1. nRF9160 Product Page
  2. nRF9160 Product Brief PDF
  3. nRF9160-DK Development Kit
  4. Nordic Thingy:91
  5. nRF Connect SDK for nRF9160
  6. nRF Connect for Desktop – Firmware Utility
  7. nRF9160 HTML Documentation
  8. nRF9160 Hardware Integration Guide PDF

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Vishnu Mohanan

Vishnu Mohanan

Founder and CEO at CIRCUITSTATE Electronics

Articles: 88

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