June 13, 2024

Digging into Connectivity in Mining Environments: In-tunnel

Mining operations rely heavily on robust and efficient connectivity to ensure safety and promote productivity. However, they also pose one of the most challenging installation environments. Difficult access and irregular spaces deep underground make continuous and complete coverage particularly difficult.

Leon Lenze, Product Manager

The connectivity challenge is further compounded by the differing technologies needed at each level of the mine to ensure optimum coverage; surface-level infrastructure uses a completely different setup than deep underground, where new tunnels are being created. 

In this blog, we will explore the connectivity needed for an established, active tunnel. How do we deliver the setup needed to support mission-critical communications and meet the performance and regulatory requirements of mine operators? Leon Lenze, Product Line Manager – Cables at RFS explains. 

The Challenge:

The unique underground environment of mines presents a unique set of challenges for delivering connectivity. Tunnels, shafts, and the presence of heavy machinery and rock formations require specialized solutions to offer seamless communication and data transfer. Traditionally, mine operators have taken the approach of using antennas and repeaters. However, this requires a high volume of equipment to ensure complete coverage in hard-to-reach and obstructed areas. 

The Technology:

At RFS, we advocate a different set-up. Our customers use a passive distributed Antenna Solution (DAS) with radiating cables that work like antennas in long mining tunnels for mission-critical and 5G transmission. There are several key advantages this offers. 

The Passive Advantage:

By using passive radiating cable rather than active equipment, mining operators benefit from several key advantages. Passive equipment has fewer points of failure compared to its active counterparts, making it a more reliable option in many cases. That reliability also translates into lower ongoing maintenance costs – once deployed in the required tunnel environment, it is a fit-and-forget solution until moved to work in a new space. The cost-effective nature continues with a lower upfront cost compared to active equipment and a lower energy consumption that reduces OPEX costs, giving a lower overall total cost of ownership.  

Contoured Coverage

The cost-effective benefits of this approach don’t come with a compromise, but instead a further benefit. Using flexible radiating cable allows us to deliver contoured coverage. This means that the obstacles we discussed, like rock formations and plant machinery, are not barriers to connectivity, and we can be confident in the complete coverage offered by taking this approach. 

Building the solution

We have spoken in hypotheticals about the RFS approach to in-tunnel mining connectivity but let’s explore what this looks like in practice. 

Mining Application Topology with RFS Solutions

We use CELLFLEX feeder cables and jumpers to bring the connectivity underground, where it is distributed to various sections of radiating cable installed within the mine. 

RFS provides all the required passive components, such as combiners, splitters, and cable, as well as fixing accessories and grounding kits, to build a complete RF system from top to bottom of the mine construction. 

Delivering True Mission-Critical

We have addressed the physical challenges of deploying robust solutions that provide full coverage in a mining environment, but this is only one piece of the puzzle. For infrastructure to be truly suited to a mining environment, it must deliver in two key areas: regulation and reliability. 


There are multiple regulatory requirements pertaining to equipment used in mines, and at RFS, our R&D teams are focused on ensuring our solutions meet the very highest regulatory standards.

Particularly around fire safety, RFS was the first vendor to offer a standalone solution to meet the highest CPR regulatory standard: B2ca s1 d0 a. This means no burning droplets accelerate a fire or emit toxic gases to further endanger life to the environment is as safe as possible while emergency services work. The team has continued its commitment to leading in fire safety with the recent opening of a second on-site fire testing chamber, as upholding the best standards in fire safety remains a priority for the team. 


The reliability of a mission-critical system is crucial in any environment, but especially when we are operating in mines, due to the potential consequences, should the worst happen. As a result, ensuring the reliability of the infrastructure is essential. A solution that performs on mission-critical frequencies isn’t enough. There needs to be a solution in place that has baked-in redundancy and backup systems to deliver continuous performance in the toughest conditions, for example, a fire or partial tunnel collapse. 

One of the big strengths of the systems we use at RFS is the advantages offered by our HYBRIFLEX cable, which protects the power supply to remote devices. This allows us to keep continuous power to the network, meaning it doesn’t fail if there is a problem with part of the infrastructure. 

We can also look to deploy self-healing cable, particularly in a mining or high-explosive environment; if a cable is damaged, we absolutely need to ensure that there is no risk of a spark that risks causing a severe accident. 

These are just a few examples of multiple ways infrastructure can be reinforced to suit the needs of mission-critical deployments. By understanding the specific risks of a mining environment, looking at what that worst-case scenario looks like, we can put in place equipment that is designed to mitigate the risks. 


Performance and regulation are undoubtedly the top priorities for our mining customers, but they are certainly not the only ones. We are seeing an increasing need for connectivity solutions to do more, especially from a sustainability and emerging technology point of view. 

Mines are increasingly turning to connected technologies to improve the safety of the working environment. As digital transformation starts to extend to the mining industry there is increasing demand for infrastructure to support connected safety applications from sensors and monitoring equipment to robotics that remove the need for humans to enter the most dangerous spaces within mines. As mines start to rely on these technologies, it is key that the connectivity that underpins them is complete and reliable, something that a Passive DAS with radiating cable system is ideally suited for. 

Beyond connectivity, sustainability is another increasing priority in every industry, and mining is no exception. One of the key advantages of RFS solutions is their longevity. The cables from RFS are built to last and allow mine operators to move and redeploy the same cable in a new environment time and time again. The passive nature of the deployment, with minimal active equipment, also drastically reduces the energy consumption of the connectivity infrastructure to align with the increasing need to implement sustainability principles where possible. 


Today, we have looked at only one aspect of connectivity for mining operations: in-tunnel; however, RFS works with mining customers across the globe to achieve full site coverage from the surface level down. 

RFS is offering a non-traditional approach to mining connectivity solutions. But by taking innovative approaches to solving communication challenges, we are committed to helping mine operators improve safety and embrace emerging technologies that ensure success now and in the future.  

If you would like to read more detail about how RFS is designing and deploying connectivity solutions for the full range of mining environments, register here to be the first to receive our upcoming whitepaper: