Recently while trying to answer this myself, I found a lot of discussion on this subject, but no definitive answer.
M.2 B Key sockets have a variety of possible modes as defined by the NGFF specification:
I am unsure what HCA stands for, but have seen it printed on the silkscreen of some of my earlier latitude models. Clearly it is some kind of proprietary device that requires one PCIe lane. It may stand for Host Channel Adapter – Implying some kind of non-NVMe PCIe SSD (i.e. has an Option ROM).
None of this tell us anything about what Dell have actually implemented on thier WWAN slots, neither does their tech support, or any of their documentation. I found myself eyeballing the traces extending from the socket, but even this was inconclusive as a lot of them are fed up from vias under the socket.
It’s given that it’ll have SSIC/USB 2.0 because almost all WWAN cards use those interfaces, but what of the others?
Fortunately there’s no need for any further conjecture because the schematics for these models are floating around the internet, so let’s answer that question definitely.
The above diagram covers models 7280, 7380, 7480, 7490 and likely others too. So there we have it. The interfaces on the WWAN socket are:
- USB 2.0
- SSIC (Chip-to-Chip USB 3.0)
Just because we know what interfaces are there, we still don’t know what kind of peripherals will actually work. For example – if a socket can accept WWAN-PCIe – SSD-PCIe should also be no problem as the required connections are all there, however those devices will have their configuration pins tied differently, allowing the BIOS to determine exactly what’s attached.
This allows manufacturers (for example) to allow PCIe WWAN cards, but disallow PCIe SSDs – a dick move, but unfortunately standard practise.