Rogers Business, part of Rogers Communications, deployed a private network at the second-largest gold producing mine in Canada, Kirkland Lake Gold’s Detour Lake Mine. The goals of the private network are enhancing miner safety at the 80-square kilometer mine, as well as increasing productivity by expanding tele-remote drill operations. Detour Lake Mine also plans to use the private network to explore the use of autonomous trucks to haul materials.

“Bringing a 5G wireless private network to Detour Lake provides the stable and reliable service we need as we build the digital mine of the future,” said Kirkland Lake Gold President and CEO Tony Makuch in a press release. “Not only does the new network provide an extra layer of connectivity for employees, it also enables us to drive mining innovation.”

Rogers said the network uses a mix of its low and mid-band spectrum, and supports smartphones as well as sensors and SIM-enabled gateways. Drones that can deliver supplies to the bottom of the mine are one potential IoT use case, Rogers said.

Ericsson and its Cradlepoint subsidiary provide radios and gateways for the private network. Ericsson recently reported the transition to smart mining can yield returns on investment in excess of 200%.

Processing data at the edge

Dell Technologies provides the edge infrastructure, including its VxRail systems, cloud data protection and PowerSwitch networking. Dennis Hoffman, SVP and GM for Dell’s telecom systems business, explained edge compute is critical for many 5G private networks because “it’s always less expensive to bring compute to data than to have data traversing the network.”

Hoffman said Dell’s private 5G customers evaluate edge infrastructure based on four parameters: performance, economics, security, and data gravity (the cost of moving large data sets.) He added the economic calculation includes the infrastructure’s extensibility, since almost all customers want the ability to add future applications down the road.

Dell works across industries, and Hoffman suspects that as the market develops, network latency requirements will be driven more by application than by industry.  He noted applications involving human safety will require “microsecond latency” regardless of industry.

Connecting to the public network

Rogers said users of its private networks can roam seamlessly onto its public network. For the Detour Lake deployment, the carrier partnered with Canada’s Expeto to enable seamless roaming. Expeto provides a cloud-based service that enables enterprises to manage connections to both private and public networks as one wide area network, integrated with the company’s own IT system.

Near Detour Lake Mine, Rogers is building eight new towers to cover the highway that connects the mine to the town of Cochrane, Ontario. The towers are expected to be operational this summer and seven of them will be primarily powered by wind and/or solar energy.

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