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SMT Activity Report 2015

Chairman: Steve Hardin, AT&T GNS Belgium SPRL

Established to standardise a form factor for embedded communications modules based on Surface Mount Technology (SMT), meeting the requirements of emerging non-traditional mobile devices in support of mobile services across multiple vertical markets

Many communications modules embedded in devices used in Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications are now connected and attached using SMT, a manufacturing process whereby the module is soldered directly on the circuit board rather than through mechanical connectors. This offers significant advantages in terms of cost and flexibility of the manufacturing process when integrating communications functionality into a larger device or system. But it also puts certain restrictions on the design of the module in terms of thermal properties, tolerance to interference etc.

ETSI’s Industry Specification Group for Surface Mount Technique (ISG SMT) was established to specify common form factors and electrical characteristics for embedded M2M communication modules. Its objectives were widespread adoption of these form factors, allowing easier transition to next generation communication modules, to ease development for device vendors through consistent designs, and to offer a second source option for integrators.

In 2015, the first modules came to market utilising one of the footprints which was defined by the baseline specification developed by ISG SMT in 2014 to describe the mechanical and electrical aspects of the modules. In 2015 the group updated this specification to take account of feedback from the industry and to include additional form factors (both larger and smaller) and forward-looking electrical interfaces. 

The group will monitor deployments in 2016, with a view to improving the specification and, if appropriate, addressing additional technologies such as LTE™ Category M and Narrow-Band IOT, the new radio technologies designed for the Internet of Things.