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Australian telecommunications company Telstra has partnered with South32 to roll out private 4G LTE network at the North West Queensland mine.

Currently, Telstra is pre-deploying the LTE network at the South32 Cannington underground silver, lead and zinc mine.  The technology is expected to drive improved safety and automation at the site and allow staff to directly access vehicles and sensors around the mine at all times.

The system offers high throughput and low latency, thereby allowing the mine staff to control critical equipment without interruption.

Telstra noted that South32’s digitalisation strategy will be achievable throughout the mine.

Through the implementation of the 4G LTE underground technology, the Cannington mine will be capable of reaching better operating transparency, condition monitoring and production improvements for staff and other mining systems.

Telstra Mining Services head Jeannette McGill said in a statement: “We’ll be building an initial underground network 6.5km in length using a private, virtualised core and LTE radio technologies distributed over leaky feeder cable using LTE-capable bi-directional amplifiers.

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“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.”

Upon its full deployment, the technology is said to become one of the largest underground mining LTE networks in the world using leaky feeder cable.

The private network will act as a standalone mobile network, independent from others, like Telstra’s own public network.

South32’s Cannington mine will possess its own equipment, SIM cards and unique network codes for full autonomy and control.

The Ericsson mobile network equipment, Telstra radio spectrum and leaky feeder combination provided by specialist manufacturer METStech enables the extension of LTE underground.