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Nokia takes 5G underground with successful tests of private networks in mines in Russia and Chile

Mine operators will use private wireless networks to run machinery by remote control and monitor safety and overall operations.

Image: GettyImages/Tyler Stableford

A Russian mining company is ready to bring in robots and increase automation with the successful test of a private network 875 meters underground. PAO GMK Nornickel and Nokia announced Tuesday that the pilot project at the Skalysty mine was a success. 

The mine will use the network for voice and data communications, video surveillance, remote management of machinery via video and communications between production sites and the control center. Mine operators tested the private wireless network simultaneously in 5G and LTE bands. Nornickel produces palladium, nickel, platinum and copper. 

Liana Ermishina, director of the information technology department of Nornickel, said in a press release that industrial automation is constantly increasing and driving further requirements for wireless data transmission networks. 

SEE: Future of 5G: Projections, rollouts, use cases, and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“We are considering the possibility to use LTE and later 5G technologies underground because these networks are best suited, first of all, to improve safety measures in the production process, as well as to implement advanced digitalization scenarios, such as autonomous mining and remote control of machinery,” Ermishina said.

Compal 5G laptops and Motorola edge+ smartphones were used to demonstrate 5G mmWave technologies. Both devices use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx 5G with Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System.  

Digitizing mines in South America

Nokia is testing private networks in South America as well. On April 22, the company deployed a private wireless network in the Minera Gold fields. The project will enable automation of mining operations including remote-controlled trucks, excavators and drills. The company describes the project as an example of asset-intensive digitization that is part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

The LTE/4.9G solution is built with AirScale radio, small cells, packet core, IP routers and the NetAct network management system. The network will connect 150 sensors and 72 vehicles to monitor operations.

In December 2020, the company tested a network in a mine 1,000 meters deep with the government of Chile, the National Copper Corporation and PSINet. The 5G pilot project was installed in the mine’s primary crusher, an area where trucks dump the material from the mine to make it smaller for processing. The project included a 5G antenna and a high-definition camera to track operations at the crusher, including wait times for trucks and unloading. 

The 5G infrastructure will generate an economic impact of $23 billion in the national mining sector by 2035, according to a study by Nokia and the consulting firm Omdia. Baldo Prokurica, Chile’s minister of mining, said in a press release that this 5G installation is a historical milestone for the industry that will open up access to artificial intelligence, faster data analysis and improved safety.

Nokia has more than 260 enterprise customers and private networks in more than 40 mines, according to the company.  

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