Telstra Mining Services to deploy underground LTE network in Queensland

An initial 6.5 kilometre private network will be created for South32's Cannington mine.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Telstra Mining Services has signed a deal with South32 to set up an underground private LTE network at its Cannington mine in north west Queensland.

The initial network is planned to be 6.5 kilometres long, and could be expanded later on.

"The push towards increasing mechanisation and automation of mining operations in Australia has driven greater demand for improved connectivity through all areas of mines and their processing facilities," Telstra Enterprise group executive Michael Ebeid said.

"These technologies -- whether connecting staff, vehicles, or sensors -- require connections that are high throughput and low latency, and can ensure that critical control and monitoring systems can operate without interruption."

The South32 network will use its own Ericsson equipment, and require its own SIMs and network codes.

"Telstra will deploy the underground network using a private, virtualised core and LTE radio technologies distributed over leaky feeder cable using LTE-capable bi-directional amplifiers," Telstra Mining Services chief Jeannette McGill said.

"Our analysis indicates this to be the most effective solution for underground miners, and is upgradeable to 5G."

In June, Telstra Mining Services completed its private LTE network for Newcrest Mining at its Lihir gold mine in Papua New Guinea, on the rim of a volcano.

"The Lihir mine extends 300 metres into a volcanic crater and our workers can often be exposed to elevated temperatures," Newcrest Lihir general manager Chris Jordaan.

"Tele-remote and autonomous mining technologies are fundamental to working the hot work areas that will become more dominant features of our operation in the future."

Seperately at its Vantage event on Wednesday, Telstra announced it had connected over 3.2 million things to the internet, and is averaging over 2,000 devices a day.

Telstra Global IoT Solutions executive Gerhard Loots said covering a nation the size of Australia, at 7.7 million square kilometres, was a continuous challenge, with the telco's coverage figure sitting around 3.5 million square kilometres.

"I think there will always be areas where LTE won't necessarily be the answer. We do work with some satellite companies to provide connectivity where the LTE network stops," Loots said.

"We've done some work also with regards to satellite-based LTE networks ... so we'll always be looking for complimentary ways just to solve that problem."

Loots added that the majority of use cases were where the IoT network was able to provide coverage.

Last month, Optus Business signed an agreement with IoT satellite startup Myriota to add mobile connectivity to Myriota's plans.

Optus Business will also offer the plans to its customers.

"Previously, satellite connectivity has not been available or affordable for businesses with remote assets, but nanosatellites are providing a more attainable and affordable solution," Myriota CEO and co-founder Dr Alex Grant said at the time.

"By combining Optus' national networks with our nanosatellite capability, we are able to offer a truly holistic IoT solution and help solve connectivity issues being faced in regional Australia."

Disclosure: Chris Duckett travelled to Telstra Vantage as a guest of Telstra 

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