Telstra and Ericsson have announced a deal with Perth-based mining and metals company South32 to deploy “one of the largest underground mining LTE networks in the world”. The new private LTE network, using Ericsson network equipment and Telstra radio spectrum, will be built at South32’s Cannington mine in northwest Queensland, which produces silver, lead and zinc.
The Cannington mine will have its own equipment, SIM cards and unique network codes for full autonomy and complete control of the network, which will stand apart from public networks, including Telstra’s own.
Telstra, which is handling the deployment, said in a statement: “Our analysis indicates this to be the most effective solution for underground miners and is capable of adapting to the unique geology and composition of the Cannington mine. It enables access to the latest advances in 4G LTE and NB-IoT, and is also upgradeable to 5G in the future.”
Telstra announced a similar private LTE deployment with a gold mine in Papua New Guinea in late July.
The Australian operator said the Carrington design, as it stands, is for a 6.5-kilometre underground LTE network using a private, virtualised core, and radio technologies distributed over “leaky feeder cable using LTE-capable bi-directional amplifiers”.
Leaky feeder solutions from manufacturer METStech make extending LTE underground a more commercially realistic and safer prospect, it said.
Telstra commented: “At its full deployment, it’ll become one of the largest underground mining LTE networks in the world using leaky feeder. We’re excited to help drive South32’s Cannington mine further with this new private network, as it looks to pay dividends to safety, productivity and more.”
The network will drive improved safety, automation and mechanisation at the site and will connect staff to vehicles and sensors around the mine. The high throughput and low latency offered by the system means staff will be able to control critical equipment without interruption.
In July, Telstra announced deployment of a private LTE network at the Lihir gold mine in Papua New Guinea, as the first deployment of private LTE in the region. The site, located 900 kilometres north-east of Port Moresby, is owned and operated by Lihir Gold Limited, and managed by Melbourne-headquartered Newcrest Mining.
Telstra Mining Services worked with Newcrest to design, test, and deploy the network.
Channa Seneviratne, network engineering executive at Telstra, said this week 5G will drive the next wave of the industrial revolution, with advances in machine learning, analytics and artificial intelligence. It could contribute $12 trillion to the global economy by 2035, according to Sky News in Australia.