It’s no secret that I love chip companies. I was a chip reporter for more than a decade, and I revel in tying advances in chips to new features and capabilities offered by our gadgets. So I was happy to chat with Svein-Egil Nielsen, the chief technical officer at Nordic Semiconductor. Nordic was founded in 1983, but for the past 15 years it has made Bluetooth-based chips that are placed in fitness trackers and other wearable devices.
This year, Nordic branched out from designing Bluetooth (and other 2.4GHz) chips to designing chips for cellular Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWANs). Specifically, it is making chips that combine a microcontroller (the chips’ brains, essentially) with an NB-IoT or LTE Cat1M radio. Nielsen explains that the addition of low-power cellular radios made sense for the company since it has long focused on energy-efficient chips for battery-powered devices.
But IoT device prices need to be something a user can anticipate, whether it’s an annual fee or something a manufacturer can build into the cost of a device. It’s too difficult to build a business model for a connected device if the data charges fluctuate wildly. More importantly, Nielsen says mobile operators need to be transparent about their pricing and easier to work with. He thinks they’re moving in that direction.
“They are getting there,” he says. “They need to stop saying, ‘Call us for a price and we’ll work it out,’ which everyone just hates.” In the U.S. market, he says he thinks that AT&T and Verizon “understand the old ways of doing business are not going to work in the new era.”