Nordic nRF9160 DK -- A single board development kit for evaluation and development on the nRF9160 for LTE-M

Table of contents

RoadTest: Nordic nRF9160 Development Kit

Author: skruglewicz

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: AVNET Monarch LTE-M Development Kit

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Activating the device on the NnRF Cloud. At first the device was not getting recognized. Finally ,after following the instructions and updating the Modem firmware I was able to connect. This took a couple of days to figure out.

Detailed Review:

This is a review of the Nordic nfRF9160 DK (Development Kit).  This Development Kit was supplied to me by the RoadTest sponsor Nordic Semiconductor. The board contains support for LTE-M, NB-IoT and GNSS. It also includes an nRF52840 board controller that can be used to build a Bluetooth Low Energy gateway.
I do have some LTE-M experience by completing a road test , back last March for the  US version of the AVNET Monarch LTE-M Development Kit    I plan to build on the knowledge gained in that review, to evaluate the nRF9160 Dev Kit capabilities.  My Review on element14 is:  AVNET Monarch LTE-M Development Kit - Review The road test description is  AVNET Monarch LTE-M Development Kit -- EU

For my evaluation my plan is to evaluate the features of the board described in the Product Brief. I will review the following claims of the boards capabilities described in this product brief.

  • Software and tools
    • nRF Connect SDK
      • The nRF Connect SDK is the software development kit for the nRF9160 DK, including everything needed to get started, and much more.
      • It supports both nRF Connect for VS Code and SEGGER Embedded Studio IDEs free of charge.
      • It integrates the Zephyr RTOS, application layer protocols such as CoAP, MQTT, HTTP(S) and LWM2M, and application examples covering a wide range of use cases.
    • nRF Connect extension for VS Code
      • Nordic Semiconductor's nRF Connect extensions for Microsoft's Visual Studio Code allow you to develop, build, test, and deploy embedded applications based on the nRF Connect SDK. The set of extensions includes an interface to the compiler and linker, an RTOS-aware debugger, a seamless interface to the nRF Connect SDK, and an integrated serial terminal among other development tools.
    • LTE modem firmware
      • The LTE modem firmware is offered as pre-certified and precompiled downloads.
    • nRF Cloud
      • The nRF9160 DK easily connects out of the box to our cloud solution, nRF Cloud, to display sensor data and get started with our Cloud services
    • Toolchain Manager
      • Install and manage tools to develop with the nRF Connect SDK
    • LTE Link Monitor
      • Development tool providing an AT command user interface to test cellular link and get network info
    • Trace Collector v2
      • Decrypt modem traces live and view them in Wireshark
    • Programmer
      • Programming user interface application

I will also evaluate the documentation and training materials that aid in the following:


  • The kit comes with
    • The nRF9160
    • An iBasic SIM card
    • A Quick Card
    • image


  • The getting started page (indicated on step 1 on the quick card ) contains a link to help you get the development environment setup. It is intensive and when you done you, will have an environment that you will use to Develop, Test and Run you designs on the kit a have a working development my Windows10 box. There are instruction to also setup on a LINUX or a MAC, but I did not follow them for this review.
    • Getting the Development environment setup
    • Getting Blinky to run on the Dev Kit.
    • Installing the SDK’s, software Development Kit
    • Install other toolchains needed
    • Installing complementary tools
    • Configure and test the LTE modem


  • Getting the Development environment setup
      •  image
    • image


  • Now that I completed the getting started page here is a summary of what I found
    1. I now have 2 tools on my desktop to use to program (Programmer) the DK and to monitor the LTE modem (LTE Link Monitor).
    2. I successfully installed/Updated The Modem firmware (v1.3.1) and the nRF Connect SDK 1.7.0 in the “2021_o6_25_7a076c22” version of the firmware which included Serial LTEmodem, AssetTracker v2, and AT Client.
    3. I successfully updated the DK after many trials of updating the original version and the 2021_o6_25_7a076c22 version.
    4. I successfully created an nRF Cloud account.
      • I was able to Activate and Provision the iBasis SIM card after may attempts over a 48 hour span of time.
      • I was able to finally get on the support SITE DevZone. It also took over 48 hours for me to receive a promised email. I know it must be a process to approve account but when you’re trying to resolve a problem, this time span is a little long.
    5. Once this process was completed, it was smooth sailing. My Device started updating telemetry data to the nRF cloud account and I was able to use the LTE Link Monitor to diagnose the LTE MODEM and send AT commands to the Modem. I was also able to observe that I was connected to the USA T-Mobile Network at 2 bars. Not sure why Verizon was not found?
    6. I was able to test the cellular connection with the “AT Client Sample APP”.

Next steps

  • I completed getting started with the nRF9160 DK.
  • Now it’s time to start developing on the nRF9160DK
  • Get the nRF SDK and start programming in VS code
  • I was thrilled to use Visual Studio Code with the nRF Connect for VS Code extension to build applications. See th enRF Connect for Visual Studio Code documentation page for more information about the extension.
  • I was able to install the nRF SDK, ,nRF Connect VS code extensions and work with many firmware examples by taking the  nRF Connect SDK Fundamentals course
    • This course helps you to learn the essentials of firmware development using the nRF Connect SDK along with Microsoft VS Code IDE
    • I used it to get familiar with the nRF9160 development environment.
    • If you’re interested in my notes on taking the course, you can refer to my blog
    • Course Conclusions
      • I gained valuable experience with the following
        • Develop a fundamental understanding of the nRF Connect SDK
        • Learn how hardware is described using devicetree
        • Learn how to configure software modules using Kconfig
        • Practice through hands-on exercises using common hardware peripherals (GPIO, UART, I2C)
        • Develop more knowledge about Zephyr RTOS 101 - Execution model, ISRs, threads, thread's life-cycle and inter-task communication/synchronization mechanisms
      • This was a very intensive course and took up most of my time allocated to this review.
      • Debug was never demonstrated?


  • Check out the Nordic website for:
    • DevAcadamy (
      • This course helps you to learn the essentials of firmware development using the nRF Connect SDK along with Microsoft VS Code IDE
      • I used it to get familiar with the nRF9160 development environment
    • Customer SUPPORT portal (
      • The devzone login does not work?
      • Requested account on 07/31 evening and did not receive any emails confirming registration
      • EMAILS finally sent
      • ...
    • Available tutorials, examples
    • Documentation ,schematics
    • Training
    • Customer support availability, Forms, Knowledge Base.

        • I have 1 account with my email
          • I never received the email promised with the password
          • I did a forgot password and never received an email. Not in spam either.
        • I created another email on my 2nd google account 
          • I never received my password email as promised.
        • Finally on f was able to get a login to the DevAZone (
        • NOW I HAVE 2 accounts
          • I will use it for my next problem.
      • BLOGS
        • Since I don’t have access to devzone I cannot create of reply to blogs to ask a question.
      • iBasis SIM card support
        • TRY sending  problem for “SIM card is not activating on nRF CLoud ”
        • Never had to

Future Enhancenments

These are a few things that I would like to tackle in order to experiment further with the nRF9160 DK.

Check out the following documentation pages

Experiment with some Samples in the SDK

  • check out theSamples. If this is the first time you are working with embedded devices, it is probably a good idea to program an unchanged sample to your development kit first and test if it works as expected.


  • Go over the documentation, focusing on components that I could use in my Remote Weather Station Project.

Design and Implementation of a simple Remote Weather station.

  • Design stage
  • Build stage
  • To design and implement my idea for a simple remote Weather station I will need to research and learn about the following technologies:
      • nRF cloud implementation to store telemetry data
      • MQTT capabilities ( for Azure IoT Central) of the Dev Kit.
      • Cellular Connectivity (LTE-M and NB-IoT)
      • Location options GPS and GNSS
      • GPIO pin assignments, to be able to connect sensors to the Dev board.
  • Debug and unit testing stage
  • Implementation stage


I gave a rating of 4 stars for the following roadtest rankings

  • Product Performed to Expectations
    1. I was expecting to have connection issues . Overall the product was easier to get up and running then the AVNET Monarch LTE-M Development Kit
  • Specifications were sufficient to design with
    1. I followed the starting guide and the course and was able to get my modem working and the SDK up and running.
  • Demo Software was of good quality
    1. Example code is very well documented
    2. Code exist for all the capabilities of the nRF9160 DK
  • Product was easy to use
    1. It was as easy as expected
    2. The course was through and very helpful
  • Support materials were available
    1. The Support website was very helpful
    2. Initially I had problems registering.
    3. But once I was registered, the Support, Blogs, and forums were helpful
  • The price to performance ratio was good.
    1. The price is right for what you get.


This is a very well designed board. The documentation and tools make embedded Open Sourse Development easy.