LTE provides distinct benefits in meeting the network requirements for autonomous applications in open pit and underground mining with its predictability and Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities.
Experience at multiple sites worldwide, however, has highlighted a number of challenges around the cost of ‘filling’ in shadows with more LTE infrastructure, limited uplink bandwidth and needing a L2 fabric on top of LTE’s L3 architecture, especially when mission critical performance of your wireless network is a requirement.
Leveraging the multi-radio meshing capability of Rajant’s InstaMesh technology, the 3D-P Hybrid LTE/InstaMesh® Osprey Intelligent Endpoint® (IEP) solves those issues.
This might seem counterintuitive to many. But think about all the tasks that you have on your work to do list that you never have the chance to tackle. Could it be a firmware upgrade? Technology research? Testing of a new network monitoring tool that seems a lot more performant than the one you have at site? Well now might be your opportunity to do so!
And while the situation is unprecedented, it will undoubtedly result in new, more remote and safer ways of planning and operating. But for now, what can you do that can bring value to your organization?
Let me give you a few ideas.
3D-P works with a diverse, wide variety of clients – large to small, quarries to mines to airports, located all over the world – and during my tenure it has been very interesting to note both the differences, and commonalities between the clients and the diverse solutions we employ.
For example, no matter the industry, we can always apply the 3D-P pillars of successful network design:
- Understand the environment – geographically, culturally, and technologically
- Design for the application – now, and for the future
- Bring the best solution forward – best for the customer, not for us
Those are the common pillars we can use to build a stable, high-performing network for any customer, regardless of their size, industry, or application. The conversation then becomes one that can be different for every customer:
How can they best, most cost-effectively support that network?
As previously discussed, a hybrid LTE/InstaMesh client solution presents a number of benefits to mines considering LTE. Often the mines investigating LTE solutions are larger mines, or those considering moving to autonomous operations.
LTE does however present a number of benefits to small operations too, and can even be an avenue towards starting their digitization process, when combined with appropriate planning and technology partnership.
For those readers that have never worked underground, trust me when I say “It’s Hard”. It is hard to work there, it is hard operating systems there, it is hard to install technologies there and it is hard to maintain systems there. Difficulty aside, communications systems for underground are vital for one primary purpose and that is safety, and although important, everything else is secondary.
In this blog, I am adding some context to the technology discussion around solving the challenges that are emerging in interoperability between legacy and emerging communications solutions to create the experience of a simplified solution without sacrificing the essential reliability and performance required for your safety and production applications.
Originally, my thoughts were to discuss solving the problems associated with last mile connectivity but upon reflection, while last mile connectivity is the end result, what we are talking about is really addressing the problems of integration between different communications technologies and why choosing the wrong migration or solution path can lead you further away from a simplified, maintainable and interoperable outcome.
As covered during our blog last week, LTE still faces a few challenges in some mining environments. However, the promises of predictability, connectivity and speed cannot be overlooked.
What if the performance of LTE in mining could be enhanced by a meshing solution for complete coverage? At 3D-P, we have developed a new hybrid LTE/InstaMesh® client solution that brings extended coverage, seamless roaming and L2 support through true peer-to-peer meshing capability.
LTE provides undeniable benefits to the unique network challenges encountered both in open pit and underground mining. With its promises of predictability, connectivity, capacity and speed, and a significant reduction in the price of LTE infrastructure over the last couple of years, there is no question why more mines are exploring this technology.
Implementation of an LTE network has however been challenging for a number of mines, which some of had to deploy a second network to compensate for the challenges of the technology.
While mining applications initially required only basic telemetry to transmit data, the rise of more complex applications, including fleet management, resulted in a requirement for better performing networks.
The recent introduction of remote control and autonomous applications just increased the difficulty of the challenge.
While we all dream of the day where we can buy just one thing to solve our communications challenges in the mining environment, we all know the design specification for the silver bullet is a long way off (as in “that’s never going to happen”).
So where does that leave us? Well it’s a matter of opinion of course. For this crusty old consultant, the answer is one size never fits all. For me, the answer has always been what do I have in my tool belt that can solve this particular customer problem that makes sense for the customer and their application.
We are essentially talking about finding a business solution and not a vendor driven technology choice. As always, the answer lies in understanding the problem fully as it relates to the business operation in question.
LTE offers good support for a multitude of applications over long distances, with some potentially significant advantages over Wi-Fi based solutions, particularly in the areas of interference and contention mitigation. However, there are still a number of challenges around meeting the demands of outdoor industrial real-time applications.
A hybrid LTE/Wi-Fi network may provide miners with the network their digital mine requires, especially as autonomy is more commonly deployed.