Feather compatible shield Integrates BG96 Module with LTE Cat-M1, NB-IoT, and GPS

Last week, I wrote about the Pebble Board, an nRF9160 based LTE-M and NB-IoT GPS tracker board that connects with Thingsboard. I was soon informed about a similar solution based on Quectel BG96 and compatible with the Feather form factor. Meet IoT-Bots.com’s qTop  Adafruit Feather Compatible shield. In case you wonder, why they did not call it a FeatherWing, that’s because as it’s slightly larger, and the boards are “Adafruit Feather Compatible (AFC) from the interface connection perspective only.”

Key features and specifications:

  • Wireless module – Quectel BG96
    • Cellular – LTE Cat M1, NB-IoT, and EGPRS module offering maximum data rates of 375 kbps downlink and uplink
    • GNSS – GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou/Compass, Galileo, QZSS
  • Nano SIM card holder and u.FL connector (3) for cellular connectivity
  • u.FL connector (4) for GNSS
  • Expansion
    • Feather expansion connector (11)
    • 6-pin qJam interface connector (12) with I2C for extra sensors
  • Misc – Network status LED, qTop Shield ID chip
  • Power – 3.3V LDO, Buck-boost DC/DC, 1.8V <-> 3.3V voltage-level translator for UART and GPIO
  • Dimensions – 54 x 27 mm

The board is compatible with any Adafruit Feather Compatible IoT boards, even the ESP8266 Feather limited GPIOs boards with PCB jumper adjustments. But qTop Cell Modem shield works best with ESP32 Feather like boards.

The EEPROM chip includes a UID that allows the firmware to automatically identify the type of the qTop shield and configures it without having to change the firmware, for example, a LoRa shield. You can find additional photos, documentation, an Arduino sketch connecting to ThingsBoard, and a JSON file to demo cloud connectivity on Github.

qTop BG96 Feather Shield fitted to qBoard-B ESP32 board, protoboard and housed in a waterproof enclosure

qTop BG96 LTE/GNSS AFC Shield is available now on GroupGets for $49.99, and will be delivered with “internal” u.FL LTE and GNSS antennas. You can also get the optional BME280 qJam sensor for an additional $13.95, qBoard-B ESP32 Feather Compatible IoT board for $20.95, as well as other accessories including a waterproof enclosure, SMA antennas, and more.

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