Introduction to Cellular Devices

Particle has a wide variety of cellular devices to suit many applications. There's a handy table at the end to help you device what's the best device for your application, but some explanation is in order first as there are a number of decisions to make!

Form Factor

Boron

Boron

The Boron is the 3rd-generation cellular device in a prototyping form factor. It has pins on the bottom that can plug into a solderless breadboard, and is compatible with the Adafruit Feather form-factor to easily add accessories like sensors and displays. You can also plug it into a socket on a custom circuit board.

Boron GPS FeatherWing

Device Model Region
Boron 2G/3G BRN310 Worldwide
Boron LTE (Cat M1) BRN402 United States, Canada, and Mexico

B Series SoM

B Series

The B Series SoM (system-on-a-module) is similar to the Boron in that it is a 3rd-generation cellular device. It plugs into an M.2 NGFF connector on your custom circuit board and is intended for mass production use.

One of the benefits is that many of the extra features on the Boron have been omitted from the SoM, so you can implement a custom solution as necessary. For example, rather than duplicating the buttons and status LED on the SoM, you can put them on an external control panel for your product, or omit them entirely.

Feature Boron B Series SoM SoM Base Board Tracker SoM
U.FL Antenna Connector Optional
MFF2 SMD Particle SIM  
Nano 4FF SIM card connector      
USB Connector   Optional Optional
Status LED   Optional Optional
Reset and Mode Buttons   Optional Optional
Battery Connector   Optional Optional
PMIC and Fuel Gauge1   Optional

1The PMIC (power management IC) and fuel gauge are used with battery-powered applications. They're omitted from the SoM as they are not needed for externally powered solutions (grid or automotive power, for example). Additionally, you may want to use different models if you are making a solar-powered device, or using a different battery technology or multiple battery pack.

Device Model Region
B Series B402 SoM (LTE Cat M1) B402 United States, Canada, and Mexico
B Series B523 SoM (LTE Cat 1) B523 Europe

Tracker SoM

SoM

The Asset Tracker SoM is a castellated SoM designed to be used with the Tracker One or reflow soldered to your own base board. It has features including:

  • Gen 3 hardware platform (nRF52840 MCU)
  • Quectel cellular modem
  • GNSS (GPS)
  • IMU (accelerometer)
  • Real-time clock
  • Hardware watchdog
Device Model Region
Tracker SoM 502 (LTE Cat M1) T502 North America
Tracker SoM 523 SoM (LTE Cat 1 with 2G/3G fallback) T523 EMEAA

Electron

Electron

The Electron is the 2nd-generation cellular device in a prototyping form factor. It is designed to easily plug into a solderless breadboard, or can be installed in a socket on your own circuit board.

Electron Breadboard

Device Model Region
Electron 2G G350 Worldwide
Electron 3G Americas U260 Americas, Australia, New Zealand
Electron 3G Europe/Asia/Africa U270 Europe, Asia, and Africa
Electron Global ELC310 Worldwide
Electron LTE (Cat M1) ELC402 United States, Canada, Mexico

E Series (SMD)

E Series

The E Series module is a 2nd-generation cellular device that is reflow soldered to your custom base board. As the software is fully compatible between the Electron and E Series, you can easily move from prototyping to mass production with the same software.

Feature Electron E Series Module Base Board
U.FL Antenna Connector  
MFF2 SMD Particle SIM    
Nano 4FF SIM card connector    
USB Connector   Optional
Status LED   Optional
Reset and Mode Buttons   Optional
Battery Connector   Optional
PMIC and Fuel Gauge
Device Model Region
E Series 2G/3G E310 Worldwide
E Series LTE (Cat M1) E402 United States, Canada, and Mexico

Cellular Carriers

The Particle SIM supports many carriers around the world. The list of mobile carriers is the complete list, however it's important to note that there are different Particle SIM cards that support a different set of carriers:

  • Electron 2G, Electron 3G, and E Series 2G/3G (E310)
  • Boron 2G/3G
  • B Series B523 (LTE Cat 1 Europe)
  • LTE Cat M1 (Boron LTE, B Series B402, E Series LTE, and Electron LTE)

SIM cards

There are two different kinds of SIM cards, depending on the device.

  • Nano (4FF) SIM card holder that accepts a physical SIM card
  • MFF2 embedded SMD SIM soldered to the device

The MFF2 embedded SIM card is best for harsh conditions as it's more robust than the plastic card and connector. It is not a programmed eSIM, however. It's basically the same as the Particle SIM card, except in an SMD form-factor. It cannot be reprogrammed to support other carriers.

The Boron has both a MFF2 Particle SIM soldered to the board and an empty nano SIM card holder that can be used for 3rd-party SIM cards.

Device Model Nano SIM Card MFF2 SMD SIM
Boron 2G/3G BRN310
Boron LTE BRN402
B Series B402 SoM (Cat M1) B402  
B Series B523 SoM (Cat 1) B523  
Tracker SoM (LTE Cat M1) T502  
Tracker SoM (LTE Cat 1 and 2G/3G) T523  
Electron 2G G350  
Electron 3G U260  
Electron 3G U270  
Electron Global ELC310  
Electron LTE (Cat M1) ELC402  
E Series 2G/3G E310  
E Series LTE (Cat M1) E402  

Roaming

Non-LTE Particle SIM cards support world-wide roaming. However there may be limitations based on the radio on the device.

Device Model Roaming LTE 3G 2G Bands
Boron 2G/3G BRN310 World 850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100
Boron LTE (Cat M1) BRN402 US, Canada, Mexico1 Cat M1 LTE Cat M16
B Series B402 SoM (LTE Cat M1) B402 US, Canada, Mexico5 Cat M1 LTE Cat M16
B Series B523 SoM (LTE Cat 1) B523 Europe Cat 1 700, 800, 900, 1800, 2100, 26007
Tracker SoM (LTE Cat M1) T502 US, Canada, Mexico5 Cat M1     LTE Cat M16
Tracker SoM (LTE Cat 1/2G/3G) T523 Europe Cat 1 700, 800, 900, 1800, 2100, 26007
Electron 2G G350 World2 850, 900, 1800, 1900
Electron 3G U260 Americas, Australia, New Zealand3 850, 1900
Electron 3G U270 Europe, Asia, Africa4 900, 1800, 2100
Electron Global ELC310 World 850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100
Electron LTE (Cat M1) ELC402 US, Canada, Mexico5 Cat M1 LTE Cat M16
E Series 2G/3G E310 World 850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100
E Series LTE (Cat M1) E402 US, Canada, Mexico5 Cat M1 LTE Cat M16

1The Boron LTE can be used with a 3rd-party SIM card in areas outside of the United States, Canada, and Mexico at this time. This is not officially supported, but has been known to work.

2The Electron 2G cannot be used in locations that no longer have 2G service. Some countries include: Australia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan. In the United States, 2G services is only available on T-Mobile, and only through the end of 2020. In some other countries, including Switzerland and New Zealand, the Electron 2G can only be used with a 3rd-party SIM card, not with the included Particle SIM card.

3The U260 model supports 850/1900 MHz for both 3G (UMTS/HSPA) and 2G (GPRS/EDGE). These are the frequencies typically used in the Americas, but there are exceptions.

For example, in Australia, we recommend the U260 because the carrier used by the Particle SIM, Telstra uses 850 MHz. However, if you are using a 3rd-party SIM from Optus, you'll need the U270 because Optus uses 900/2100 MHz.

In New Zealand, we previously recommended the U270 as Two Degrees was the carrier. We've switched to Spark, however, which uses 850 MHz and thus the U260 is now recommended for New Zealand, like Australia. If you've purchased a U270 for use in New Zealand and are stuck at blinking green (connecting to cellular), technical support can switch your SIM back to Two Degrees so you can use the U270.

In Uruguay, the carrier used by the Particle SIM, Movistar, uses 1900 MHz so the U260 Americas model is the correct one. If you're using an Antel 3rd-party SIM, however, that uses 2100 MHz you you'll nee the U270 model, instead.

4The U270 model supports 900/2100 MHz for 3G (UMTS/HSPA) and 900/1800 MHz for 2G (GPRS/EDGE). It is typically used in Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is used by some carriers in South America (with a 3rd-party SIM card).

5The B Series B402, E Series LTE, and Electron LTE cannot be used outside of the United States, Canada, and Mexico at this time.

6For LTE Cat M1 bands, see LTE Cat M1 below.

7The Quectel EG91-E modem supports European LTE bands (700, 700, 900, 1800, 2100, and 2600), as well as HSPA/WCDMA 3G (900, 2100) and GSM 2G (900, 1800). See the datasheet for more information.

3rd-party SIM cards

Some Particle devices are compatible with 3rd-party SIM cards.

Device Model 3rd-party SIM compatible
Boron 2G/3G BRN310
Boron LTE (Cat M1) BRN402
B Series B402 SoM (LTE Cat M1) B402  
B Series B523 SoM (LTE Cat 1) B523  
Tracker SoM (LTE Cat M1 and 2G) T502  
Tracker SoM (LTE Cat 1 and 2G/3G) T523  
Electron 2G G350
Electron 3G Americas U260
Electron 3G Europe/Asia/Africa U270
Electron Global ELC310
Electron LTE (Cat M1) ELC402  
E Series 2G/3G E310  
E Series LTE (Cat M1) E402  

There are limitations on using 3rd-party SIM cards in large product deployments. If you think you will need to use a 3rd-party SIM you should contact sales for additional information.

4G LTE

There are three main varieties of LTE service:

  • LTE Cat 1 is what's used by your mobile phone, and the B Series B523 SoM. It's different than the IoT variation (LTE Cat M1).
  • LTE Cat M1 is a version of LTE that is used for relatively low data rate, low-cost, and low-power applications. Particle LTE devices like the Boron LTE, E Series LTE (E402), Electron LTE (ELC402), and B Series B402 SoM, support LTE Cat M1.
  • LTE Cat NB1 is a different low-cost and low-power version of LTE, with even lower data rates. While Particle LTE device hardware can support NB1, it is not officially supported at this time.

At this time, Particle is unable to provide worldwide roaming for LTE Cat M1 devices using the Particle SIM and they can only be used in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

LTE Cat 1 provides greater compatibility with carriers, but is a more expensive module and uses more power.

B Series B523 SoM is LTE Cat 1 with 2G/3G fallback, and is only compatible with European networks at this time. The Quectel EG91-E module on this device also supports 3G and 2G fallback. Note that the EG91-E is too large to fit in the Boron (Adafruit Feather), Electron, or E Series module, so it will only be available in the M.2 SoM form-factor.

The Tracker SoM T523 is also LTE Cat 1 with 2G/3G fallback, with a Quectel EG91-EX module, and will support the EMEAA region when released.

LTE Cat M1

The following devices use LTE Cat M1:

Device Model
Boron LTE (Cat M1) BRN402
B Series B402 SoM (LTE Cat M1) B402
Electron LTE (Cat M1) ELC402
E Series LTE (Cat M1) E402

In the United States, Particle devices use LTE Cat M1 on the AT&T network. In all locations that AT&T supports LTE on their own network (not roaming and not a partner carrier), LTE Cat M1 should also be supported.

In Mexico, AT&T Mexico is used for LTE Cat M1.

In Canada, any of Rogers, Telus, or Bell is used for LTE Cat M1.

Frequency Band R402 BG96 AT&T US AT&T MX Rogers CA2 Telus CA2 Bell CA2
700 12
700 13  
700 17  
700 28
700 29  
800 20
850 26
850 18
850 5
850 19
900 8
1700 4
1800 3
1900 2
1900 25
1900 39  
2100 1
2600 7    

2The Canadian bands are for all types of LTE. Not all are used for LTE Cat M1. In particular, band 7 (2600 MHz) is only used for LTE Cat 1, not LTE Cat M1.

LTE Cat 1

LTE Cat 1 is most similar to phone LTE, and should work in all areas with LTE phone data coverage, subject to region and carrier compatibility.

The following devices use LTE Cat 1:

Device Model Modem Region
B Series B523 SoM (LTE Cat 1 with 2G/3G fallback) B523 EG91-E Europe
Tracker SoM (LTE Cat 1 with 2G/3G fallback) T523 EG91-EX EMEAA

The following bands are supported:

Frequency Band EG91-E EG91-EX
700 28  
700 28A  
800 20
900 8
1800 3
2100 1
2600 7

2G and 3G Sunset

Carriers around the world periodically shut down older networks to reallocate the frequencies and tower space to new technologies like LTE and 5G.

The list below is not complete; you should check with the carrier in your area to be sure of sunset, decommissioning, or shutdown dates.

United States

AT&T deactivated their 2G network at the end of 2016. Electron 2G devices can only use T-Mobile at this time.

AT&T's 3G shutdown should occur in early 2022. After this occurs, the Electron U260 and E Series E310 will only connect to T-Mobile in the United States.

T-Mobile will begin to reallocate 3G spectrum in March 2020 so there could be reduced coverage. T-Mobile will deactivate their 2G network at the end of 2020.

The Boron 2G/3G only connects to T-Mobile in the United States already (it cannot connect to AT&T using the built-in MFF2 Particle SIM).

In the United States we strongly recommend using LTE Cat M1. AT&T has committed to supporting the LTE network at least through the end of 2027.

After Event Electron 2G Electron 3G E Series 2G/3G Boron 2G/3G LTE Cat M1
End of 2016 AT&T ended 2G service T-Mobile Both Both T-Mobile AT&T
End of 2020 T-Mobile ends 2G service   T-Mobile T-Mobile T-Mobile AT&T
Early 2022 AT&T ends 3G service T-Mobile T-Mobile T-Mobile T-Mobile AT&T

Europe

In some European countries, they're phasing out 3G and instead keeping 2G and LTE networks. All of the Particle 3G cellular devices can also connect to 2G networks, so compatibility will be maintained.

For example, in Norway, Telenor is shutting down their 3G network at the end of 2020, but keeping their 2G network running until the end of 2025.

Australia

In Australia, there is no longer 2G service on any carrier and the Electron 2G cannot be used.

The Electron and E Series use Telstra in Australia. They intend to shut down their 3G network at mid 2024. At that point, the Electron can only be used with a 3rd-party SIM card and the E Series will no longer work.

The Boron 2G/3G uses Vodafone in Australia. They have not announced a 3G shutdown date.

After Event Electron 2G Electron 3G E Series 2G/3G Boron 2G/3G
End of 2016 Telstra ended 2G service  
April 2019 Telstra sends 2100 MHz 3G service  
Mid 2024 Telstra ends 850 MHz 3G service   1  

1Can use only with a 3rd-party SIM card.

Canada

The Electron and E Series use Rogers in Canada:

  • 2G service on Rogers will end at the end of 2020. The Electron 2G will no longer operate after that date with the Particle SIM card. Since Bell Mobility and Tellus also will have decommissioned their 2G networks by then, there are few alternatives for 2G service in Canada.
  • 3G service on Rogers will end at the end of 2025.

The Boron 2G/3G uses Telus in Canada:

  • 2G services on Telus has already ended.
  • 3G service on Telus will end at the end of 2025.
After Event Electron 2G Electron 3G E Series 2G/3G Boron 2G/3G
End of 2020 Rogers ends 2G service  
End of 2025 Rogers and Telus end 3G service        

Limited 2G

These countries cannot use 2G (Electron 2G) with the included Particle SIM card. They can only use a 3rd-party SIM card:

  • New Zealand
  • Switzerland

These countries have a scheduled end to 2G service when using the Particle SIM card:

Country 2G End Date
Canada End of 2020
United States End of 2020

No 2G

These countries cannot use the Electron 2G at all:

  • Australia
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Singapore
  • Taiwan

Summary

Device Model Modem Region 2G 3G LTE Generation SIM Form Factor
Boron 2G/3G BRN310 U201 World   Gen3 Both Feather
Boron LTE (Cat M1) BRN402 R410 US, Canada, Mexico     Cat M1 Gen3 Both Feather
B Series SoM (LTE Cat M1) B402 R410 US, Canada, Mexico     Cat M1 Gen3 MFF21 M.2 SoM
B Series SoM (LTE Cat 1) B523 EG91-E Europe     Cat 1 Gen3 MFF21 M.2 SoM
Tracker SoM (LTE Cat M1/2G) T502 BG96-NA US, Canada, Mexico5     Cat M1 Gen3 MFF21 SMD Module
Tracker SoM (LTE Cat 1/2G/3G) T523 EG91-EX EMEAA Cat 1 Gen3 MFF21 SMD Module
Electron 2G E350 G350 World     Gen2 Card Pins
Electron 3G E260 U260 Americas   Gen2 Card Pins
Electron 3G E270 U270 Europe, Asia, Africa   Gen2 Card Pins
Electron Global ELC310 U201 World   Gen2 Card Pins
Electron LTE (Cat M1) ELC402 R410 US, Canada, Mexico     Cat M1 Gen2 MFF21 Pins
E Series 2G/3G E310 U201 World   Gen2 MFF21 SMD Module
E Series LTE (Cat M1) E402 R410 World     Cat M1 Gen2 MFF21 SMD Module

1 MFF2 SMD Particle SIM card. It's soldered to the board and is not reprogrammable.