Nordic Semiconductor will expand into the cellular Internet of Things (IoT) market of South Korea this year, a company executive said.
Nordic has focused on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) so far. But starting this year, it will supply long-distance wireless technology, Sean Choi, the company’s regional sales manger of South Korea, said.
The company is expecting expanded supply of cellular IoT solution for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI).
Nordic, since it launched NB-IoT-based cellular IoT nRF9160 module a few years back, has mostly focused on getting approval in European countries.
In December last year, the company secured approval from local telco LG Luplus for its cellular IoT module. South Korean IoT companies can now use Nordic’s solution to develop cellular IoT applications. Choi said the approval shows that the company’s cellular IoT technology is stable.
Cellular IoT requires approval from telcos, just like smartphones. Cellular IoT can be applied to prior applications that used Bluetooth. It also supports long-distance communication and use approved networks for transmissions.
Cellular IoT can be applied to wearables, factory automation and smart building, Choi said. Korea Electric Power Corporation, the national electric utility, is also expected to use cellular IoT for its plan to covert current metering technology for water, gas and electricity to AMI. The regional sales manager said.
The national AMI project will take over ten years, and Nordic plans to promote its cellular IoT products actively starting this year, Choi said.
In December, the South Korean utility announced that it plans to supply 23.2 million households with AMI by 2024. The company chooses the vendor through auction.
Nordic will also supply its solutions for location tracking devices, the manager said.
The company posted US$452 million in sales last year, a 40.5% growth from 2019, Its sales in South Korea doubled. Nordic controls up to 50% of market share in the global Bluetooth Low Energy market.
It saw record sales last year due to high demand for semiconductors in IT and home appliance devices due to the rise of remote culture from the pandemic, Choi said. Nordic’s Gen 2 Bluetooth Low Energy system-on-a-chip (SoC) nRF52 was supplied for various consumer productions, recording the highest sales out of all the company’s products, he said.
Nordic has some 200 customers in South Korea, including start-ups and conglomerates. It supplied its nRF52833 and nRF52810 SoCs to LG InnoTek’s ETWBCLU01 IoT module in November. It supplied its nRF52832 chip to local company Mezoo’s ECG monitoring device in July. It also supplied its solution to Samsung Electronics for smart door locks, medical devices and wearables.
Choi said Nordic decided not to raise chip prices this year, despite the global shortage. It the shortage would prolong, the company would have raised prices, but expected to shortage to be resolved next year, he said. The company didn’t wish to burden its customers, the manager said, and this will increase loyalty of its customers.