From this question comments I found out there is some drastical difference if we speak about a chipset or a module.

I could not find a definition, that clearly would distinguish these terms to me, as my English skills nor wikipedia search did not give enough information.

So, how would you explain these two that the difference comes clear?


3 Answers 3


A one-line answer is that a module is 'a minimal stand-alone packaging of a chipset and it's supporting components, on a PCB (Printed Circuit Board) designed to be integrated in a product'

As noted already, a module is typically a small PCB assembly (for example this one). These will contain an ASIC, an oscillator/crystal and usually an antenna. There will also be a handful of discrete components for decoupling etc. Most modules will provide a fairly low speed communication interface, serial, SPI or silimar (but could expose something like a PCIe interface if its relevant).

A chipset consists of one or more ASICs, typically an MCU and an RF section (maybe just the RF section is protocol specific), as well as a software stack.

The most important difference is that a module is likely to be pre-certified (FCC and EU type approval). If you use a module in the way specified by the manufacturer then you can generally avoid having to go through the radio compatibility testing. This approach may preclude you from using a PCB trace antenna, or require that you use a specified trace layout.

If you use a chipset, you need to connect together any relevant parts of the chipset (maybe an analogue and a digital device, maybe an external power amplifier). You need to provide the correct power supply regulation and decoupling, and consider all of the RF layout issues.

A challenge with using a chipset is that the necessary RF test equipment may cost several $100,000 (certainly if you are talking GSM). Without this, you'd need a 3rd party to check your implementation and help you pass the regulatory testing. Even unlicensed bands require that your transmissions remain in the unlicensed band.

  • To put in short: chipset would be used to build the function from scratch / pieces and module makes it all from the shop shelf?
    – mico
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 6:50
  • Its maybe not quite that simple, but that is a first approximation. Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 6:52

A module can (and usually does, within the context of the question as I understand it) contain a chipset. The chipset is literally a set of chips (the prototypical example of a 'chip' being a single IC) that work together to for all or part of a module, which is used as a component of a device. Any given module can have variants which use different chipsets, and any given chipset can be used in more than one module variant.


A module is a physical unit, which satisfies some function (e.g. a WiFi module), and is normally made of smaller parts. These parts have been incorporated into one monolithic item. A chipset is a collection of individual elements which have been integrated to provide a function (for example, allowing the exchange of information between a processor, peripherals and memory).

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