BLE121LR Breakout

New BLE121LR Breakout

Optimal range design and full access to all of the pins of the BLE121LR Bluetooth Low Energy module from Bluegiga, now part of Silicon Labs.

Breakout Features

  • 1.5 in x 2.0 in PCB dimensions (narrow part is 0.9 in wide)
  • Satisfies minimum ground plane size recommended for optimal range
  • All module pins broken out (multi-pin VDD and GND nets combined)
  • Standard 0.1" pin spacing, aligned for easy breadboard mounting
  • CC debugger header (2x5-pin 0.05" pitch)
  • Module reset button
  • Green power LED (solder jumper to disable)
  • Blue active-high user LED to P0_0 (solder jumper to disable)
  • Power directly from CC debugger for easy reflashing/testing (solder jumper to disable)
  • Preloaded with BGAPI-enabled firmware and simple GATT database

Development Resources

The breakout board itself does not currently have separate documentation other than what you see on this page, due mainly to its simple design. However, the BLE121LR module has many resources available. Some of the most relevant and useful may be found in the list below. To develop with the BLE121LR module with Bluegiga's standard SDK, you will need the following:

  1. Windows PC or virtual machine to install and use the SDK (currently no Mac or Linux release is available)
  2. Latest Bluetooth Smart Software Development Kit release from Bluegiga, found in the Software Releases section of Bluegiga's BLE121LR product page
  3. CC debugger, either standalone or built into a DKBLE kit (see the Updating Firmware section below)

These links should help you get started:

Also, for those of you looking to use this with an Arduino or similar prototyping environment, check out the BGLib code library and examples for Arduino and other platforms:

Module Overview

Description from BLE121LR product page:

BLE121LR is a Bluetooth Smart Long Range module targeted for Bluetooth Smart applications where the best possible RF performance and range are required. At +8 dBm TX power and -98 dBm sensitivity BLE121LR has best-in-class RF performance and can provide Bluetooth Smart connectivity up to 450 meters. BLE121LR integrates all features required for a Bluetooth Smart application: Bluetooth radio, software stack and GATT based profiles. and it can also host end user applications, which means no external micro controller is required in size, price or power constrained devices. BLE121LR Bluetooth Smart module also has flexible hardware interfaces to connect to different peripherals or sensors. Although BLE121LR Bluetooth Smart Long Range Module is targeted for applications requiring high RF performance, it is still has relatively low power consumption and can be powered using a standard 3V coin cell battery.

Preloaded Firmware

These breakout boards come with a non-default firmware image flashed on them, appropriate for UART BGAPI-based control from a low-power microcontroller with no flow control capability. The full source for this exact firmware is published on Github.

This firmware has the UART1/Alt1 interface (P0_4=TXD, P0_5=RXD) configured with BGAPI enabled in "packet" mode. For more information on what this means, see the links in the Documentation section below. This firmware is not visible by default from BLE scanning apps or tools. Rather, it boots into an idle state, awaiting commands from a UART host device. The 7-byte binary API command needed to put the module into an advertising state is [ 06 00 02 06 01 02 02 ], equivalent to the BGScript call call gap_set_mode(2, 2). More details on API commands can be found in the Bluetooth Smart API Reference Guide from Bluegiga. Also, refer to the Bluegiga Knowledge Base article on BGAPI/BGLib implementations.

Custom Firmware

If you have your own firmware image that you've already been working on for a BLE121LR module, you can choose to provide your precompiled .hex image file during the order process, and you'll receive your breakout(s) pre-flashed with that image for a small per-unit cost.

Be very sure that you thoroughly test the image before providing it, since only you can say whether or not it is truly functioning as intended. The "Custom Firmware" option during checkout is only a flashing service, and is not intended to be for development, troubleshooting, or quality assurance (although these things may be separately negotiable on a case-by-case basis).

Updating Firmware

There are two options for modifying the firmware on the breakout board. The standard firmware image that ships on the breakout boards allows limited reflashing using the BGAPI-based UART DFU protocol. Instructions describing this process are available in this Bluegiga Knowledge Base article:

However, to completely reflash the module from any state to any other state, you will need the CC Debugger. This circuit is available both as a standalone device and as part of the Bluegiga DKBLE development kit, a larger and more costly (but feature-rich) evaluation board for Bluegiga's BLE modules:

It is strongly recommended to obtain a CC debugger of some type in order to have the best experience with prototyping. If you are restricted to the UART DFU procedure only, it is not as easy or efficient to perform firmware updates. The breakout board does not come with a CC debugger.

Bare PCB Assembly

Building this by hand is not an easy task. If you are not comfortable with SMT modules and reflow/hot-air rework, you should probably get the assembled board instead of the PCB alone. However, with a solder stencil and a steady hand, it is not too difficult. Further, you can benefit from the breakout design even if you only mount the module itself on the board. All other components are not strictly required for core functionality, although the 2x5-pin CC debugger header is nice to have available.

To obtain a solder stencil, download the stencil Gerber file (*.tcream layer) and use the tool or service of your choice to create a stencil. OSH Stencils provides excellent value, for example. You can buy the BLE113 module itself from SemiconductorStore or Mouser for about $16. It is available through other distributors as well. A shared Mouser project with single-board quantities of all parts for the current version 1.0 of the breakout is also available to help you get started.

Bluetooth Compatibility

The BLE121LR is a single-mode Bluetooth Low Energy device (following the Bluetooth 4.0 specification), also known as Bluetooth Smart. It is not backwards-compatible with older "classic" Bluetooth (2.0, 2.1, and 3.0) devices, and so it can only communicate with other BLE-capable devices such as the BLE113 module, BLED112 USB dongle, or consumer devices like iPhone 4S or newer, iPad 3rd Gen or newer, and Android phones and tablets running Android 4.3 or newer (Android 4.4+ strongly recommended for stability).

Technology Bluetooth Low Energy (4.0)
Output power +8 dBm maximum
Antenna On-module ceramic chip

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Tags: ble121lr, bluegiga, silabs, bluetooth, ble, breakout