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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.
Do not neglect design and installation of your network
There are a few basic questions that will narrow your view on where you start. For example, if you are a brownfield operation that has a pre-existing network and it’s performing poorly, is your problem the technology, or the way it is currently deployed and maintained? Do you have the right technical skillsets in place maintaining it? Maybe you did when it got installed and over time you’ve lost your internal expertise?
For this sort of site your approach may be that you just need some external help for a while to provide an independent view to the problem and to provide some recommendations, and/or assistance to make the necessary changes to bring about the performance required to have your operational applications working optimally. Some examples of what might be considered are:
– Assessing your team competency against the operational tasks required to maintain the network. It could be that it is a simple matter of some training on site.
– How are you currently managing movement of infrastructure and do your current resources understand the specific radio technology requirements around distance and antenna choice? Even something like changing to a RAS (Rapid Auto Steering) self-aligning antenna solution on your trailers may drastically simplify the process of moves and changes to your network, reduces risk of failed changes, optimise network connections and at the same time by using a smart self-aligning antenna solution, you’re solving a technical resource constraint you may have at site.
– On another more physical level, your performance issues may be down to the type of connectors or coaxial cable you use on your installs and an independent audit may find that your procurement people changed you to a lower cost cable at some point which has inadvertently degraded your network performance over time as cables were replaced as needed.
For a greenfield site it is important not to follow the pack and assume what everyone else is using is the right solution for your site. The requirements for every site can vary significantly.
Technology: LTE vs wireless meshing technology
Let’s consider the discussion around LTE that seems to be very hot at the moment. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a knock out technology and there is definitely a business case that would make it a slam dunk for LTE in some operations but impractical in others and so the question is how do you decide that? There are many factors that contribute towards the right fit. These include things like site topography, size of mine and density of fleet, life of mine, technical resources, owner operator or contract miner and most importantly, what are your applications?
LTE offers a benefit of less infrastructure in some topographic situations whereas a wireless meshing technology such as Rajant can offer greater levels of redundancy and reduce the level of attentiveness and technical expertise to deploy and maintain and consequently, the opex and resourcing requirements to run and maintain the network become significantly less.
So while we have no silver bullet, we definitely can find the closest thing for your business. Contact us today.