It’s been a while since u-blox released the SARA-R5 series of LTE-M and NB-IoT modules for low-power wide area (LPWA) IoT applications. There have been several adoptions of this module, but this time SparkFun comes with an in-house LTE GNSS breakout development tool built around the SARA-R510M8S LTE-M / NB-IoT module, which offers end-to-end security for long-term device deployments.
“The built-in u‑blox M8 GNSS receiver provides accurate and reliable positioning with a separate GNSS antenna interface for an external antenna. Both the GNSS antenna and LTE connections are made via a pair of SMA connectors," SparkFun notes.
With the UBX-R5 chipset, the board now supports several data communication forms including TCP/IP sockets and packet-switched data. These TCP/IP communication protocols are used to interconnect network devices on the Internet. The board features three serial interfaces (UART1, UART2 and SARA Diag) via a separate USB-C connection. With three USB-C connectors, you can power the board as well.
If you are wondering how to access the UART connection through USB, then note that the board has an integrated CH340C USB-to-serial adapter IC for translating the USB data. The breakout has seven LEDs to indicate the status of the SARA-R5 module. SparkFun has a detailed guide to help you get started with both the hardware and software. There are also some easy examples to play with along with the code on send/receive SMS, configure packet-switched data, etc.
Since the board ships with a Hologram SIM card, if you choose to use this option, please check with the service provider that offers LTE-M / NB-IoT coverage in the area. SparkFun is currently selling the breakout for $124.95.