RDA5981 is a $1 Fully Integrated WiFi Chip with an ARM Core

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RDA’s RDA5981 is a fully integrated low-power WiFi chip from RDA Microelectronics. RDA5981 is a fully built WiFi chip highly intended for applications in the areas of a smart home, audio applications and IoT applications. The RDA5981 is being used in devices running Baidu DuerOS, the Chinese alternative to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

RDA5981 WiFi Module

During the annual event of China’s semiconductor industry IC China 2016, RDA Microelectronics announced the RDA5981 during the event with promises of it reducing the size, power consumption, development costs of a smart device.

The RDA5981A is a low power MCU with IEEE802.11b/g/n MAC/PHY/radio integrated into one chip. The RDA5981 is powered by the ARM Cortex M4 plus FPU/MPU core running at 160MHz speed, a high performing processor for that application type. It has up to 288KByte of internal SRAM and additional 160Kbyte SRAM for Wi-Fi stack and flash cache but with only about 192Kbyte available for the user. It has up to 8MB of Flash, 2x ADC with a 10bit resolution, 8x PWM (Pulse Width Modulation), 4x SPI (Serial Peripheral Interface) with a maximum clock frequency of about 20MHz, one I2C, 2x I2S, 2x UART and a total of about 14 GPIO Pins.

RDA5981 Block Diagram

Concerned about Security, the RDA5981 has an onboard hardware cryptographic accelerator supporting AES/RSA, and a True Random Number Generator (not the one you use software to generate), and lastly a CRC accelerator for improved performance. It includes an onboard TCP stack which could either support SSL, TLS or even both.

Unlike the ESP8266, one the maker’s favorite Wi-Fi module, the RDA5981 includes USB2.0 features.

RDA5981 A/B/C processor specifications:

  • CPU – Arm Cortex-M4 +FPU/MPU core @ up to 160 MHz
  • Memory –
    • Up to 448 KB SRAM for network stack and application
    • User available memory is 192Kbyte
  • Storage –
    • Up to 32Mbit SPI flash
    • Support 64M PSRAM expansion
  • Connectivity
    • WiFi
      • 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g/n WiFi up to 150 Mbps with 20/40 MHz bandwidth
      • WPA, WPA2, WEP, TKIP, CCMP security
      • STA, softAP, P2P, STA+softAp, STA+P2P modes
      • A-MPDU, A-MSDU, HT-BA
    • TCP/IP stack with SSL and/or TLS
  • Host Interfaces – SPI / UART (AT command set) / USB2.0
  • Peripherals – 14x GPIO, 2x UART, 2x I2S, 1x I2C, 8x PWM, 4x SPI, 1x SDMMC, 1x USB2, 2x ADC
  • Security –
    • Hardware crypto accelerator AES/RSA,
    • True random number generator (TRNG)
    • CRC accelerator
  • Misc – Watchdog, 16×16 bits eFuse configuration
  • Package – 5×5mm2 QFN package, 0.4mm pitch QFN-40
  • Temperature –
    • -30oC to +80oC
  • Voltage – 3.0V – 3.5V

The board can be programming with AT commands or using mBed and the company provides support for FreeRTOS and mbedOS5.1 for the chip. More information about the device specification can be found on the Electrodragon Wiki

The RDA5981A IC is expected to sell for around $1 and an RDA5981A Wi-Fi module is available for sale at $1.92 from Electrodragon.

About Ayo Ayibiowu

Ayo is a software and hardware guy, a writer, and a prospective farmer. Ayo is passionate about STEM Education and Technology and has worked with over three EdTech startups in the last 5 years. Ayo currently talks and writes about technology especially in the areas of Internet of Things, Open Hardware, Startups, Precision Agriculture, Artificial Intelligence and Smart Cities. Ayo loves to cook and think about abstract ideas, and in his free time enjoys biking, hiking, traveling and playing video games.

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