Telstra rolls out private 4G network for Newcrest’s Lihir goldmine

Miner’s fleet able to switch seamlessly between LTE and Wi-Fi connections

Telstra’s mining services arm has installed a private 4G LTE mobile network at Newcrest’s Lihir goldmine in Papua New Guinea. According to Telstra Mining Services, it is the first private 4G network to be rolled out in PNG.

“We’ve provided Newcrest with a tailored platform that will underpin its safety and digital mining ambitions and will help improve productivity and deliver new value and efficiencies to the business,” said Telstra Mining Services head Dr Jeannette McGill.

“They’ll be using it to further modernise the mine site to enable the use of current and future mining applications, including teleremote and autonomous systems, more extensively.”

The miner has its own base stations, LTE core and SIM cards, Telstra said. The system includes HetNet support, allowing the miner’s fleet to switch between LTE and Wi-Fi without any impact on operations.

The telco in mid-2016 announced it had launched Telstra Mining Services, building on the acquisition of CBO Telecommunications. Telstra said at the time that it planned to take advantage of CBO’s expertise in Wi-Fi and mesh networks and the “design, build and maintenance of enterprise grade networks used in mine sites.”

Trucks, drills, excavators, dozers, shovels and barges are among the vehicle assets that can now connect to the new LTE network at Lihir. Telstra said that the new network has delivered an 80 per cent improvement in communications reliability for assets that support LTE connections.

“Newcrest and Telstra Mining Services took what has become a best-in-class preliminary deployment approach with the network,” McGill said. “Designing it for full production but initially deploying at two sites allowed Newcrest to validate the design principles, implementation techniques and practical capabilities of LTE before scaling their investment.”

Telstra CEO Andy Penn during a December update on the telco’s 5G ambitions lauded his company’s “deep capabilities in the mining services”. The CEO said that existing LTE technology was largely meeting the needs of miners at the moment.

“Autonomous operations are absolutely becoming mainstream across this industry,” Penn said. “The semi and fully automated heavy vehicle machinery including drills, dozers, trucks, are absolutely essential for an economically sustainable mining operation. And the needs of today and tomorrow's miners are pretty much well met at the moment through the capabilities that we’ve got through LTE technology.”

However, the CEO added, “5G is going to have the ability to augment our 4G LTE deployments with capacity, latency and speed all together, really building on that vision of having an everything is connected, everything is autonomous or remotely controlled for the mining sector.”

The telco this year began offering consumer 5G services.

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