Ericsson plans to work with industrial partners to market private wireless services in countries that make spectrum available for enterprise use. The vendor has been slower than its top competitor Nokia to bypass mobile network operators and market private wireless services directly to end users, but in recent months Ericsson has been making up for lost time. In May Ericsson consolidated its enterprise private networks business under Cradlepoint CEO George Mulhern, and now the network equipment giant is working with partners to address the big industrial customers that are too large for Cradlepoint.

“In regions, where spectrum is available for industrial use, we partner with key industrial players, such as Becker Mining, to offer world-leading private network solutions to vertical enterprises,” explained Thomas Noren, head of dedicated networks at Ericsson.

Becker Mining has a non-exclusive contract to sell and deliver Ericsson’s private wireless network services in multiple countries. A major focus will be Ericsson’s Private 5G (EP5G), which includes Ericsson’s indoor and outdoor radio portfolio, a cloud-based network management system, and an open API meant to enable customers to integrate their own information technology and operational technology with the private 5G network.

The mining industry is well-suited for private wireless, because mines are often located in remote areas that are not well covered by public carrier networks, and they are too large to be adequately covered by Wi-Fi. The three largest network equipment vendors – Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei – have all targeted the mining industry with private 5G services. 

Ericsson noted in a press release that wireless connectivity can enable the automation of ventilation systems, gas monitoring, telemetry of production equipment and remote control of production equipment. It can also facilitate real-time vehicle and personnel tracking, which is very important for miners who might be trapped beneath the surface. Ericsson and Huawei both say their private 5G solutions for mines offer sub-20 millisecond latencies.

Becker Mining has yet to sell any private 5G networks for Ericsson, but its Mexican subsidiary Lasec has procured several private network systems from Ericsson for use in mines in that country, Noren said.

“Connected mine projects are the future of the mining industry by guaranteeing efficiency, greater profitability, safety for miners and less environmental impact. By automating mining companies, they can increase their sustainability by reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions,” said Dr. Franz Becker, CEO, Becker Mining Systems, in a press release. “This solution heralds in Industry 4.0 and will become a global benchmark for the mining industry.”

Ericsson has already deployed a number of private networks in mines, many of which currently use LTE. Most of these networks were built in partnership with carriers. “As of today, the larger portion of our deployments in mining are via communication service providers, in countries such as Canada, the U,S, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden, Australia, although we see increasing traction with other partners,” said Noren. He added that Ericsson expects to announce more private 5G deployments in mines in the coming months.

Noren also noted that Ericsson is addressing other industry verticals through partnerships. “Ericsson has sold a number of EP5G systems through resellers in several markets, notably those with industry spectrum such as U.S., Germany, UK, France, Japan and Korea, he said. “For the time being, we have only announced one deal publicly.”

That deal involved three airports serving Paris, connected by a private wireless network to support the 120,000 employees who work at the airports.

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