April 27, 2022

Q&A: Navigating connectivity for mining

Going underground is nothing new for the team at RFS. As one of the biggest providers of connectivity solutions for metro environments in the world, supplying equipment in 42% of metros globally, delivering connectivity below ground level is one of our main strengths. But how does delivering connectivity deep underground change when we move into a mining environment? Axel Schroeder, Global Product Line Manager-Wireless Indoor Solutions and Farshid Degan, In-Building Systems, talk through how the challenge changes and how RFS is helping customers to meet their connectivity needs.

Radio Frequency Systems,

What are the pain points that you see with your mining customers when it comes to connectivity?

On top of the traditional challenges of dangerous work environments and the need for reliable emergency communication services, the evolving ecosystem of modern mining also involves increased automation of processes, for example remote operations like autonomous haulers or real-time data generated by M2M. Connectivity therefore becomes ever so critical in modern mining environments where cellular technology is the foundation for private site communications. 

One approach is to tackle this with antennas and repeaters through the mine, but this relies on very precise RF planning to ensure no zones are without the necessary coverage. The RFS approach on the other hand uses our proprietary radiating cable that offers much more consistent and reliable results when it comes to delivering total coverage in a mine environment. 

Can you tell me a little bit more about contouring coverage, what is unique about the way RFS does this?

RFS developed RADIAFLEX cable, which is the leading solution for contoured coverage, in 1972 giving us 5 decades of R&D into solutions for delivering contoured coverage in challenging environments. It is used in thousands of deployments around the globe by both RFS and OEMs looking to ensure continuous coverage in difficult spaces. RADIAFLEX is radiating or ‘leaky feeder’ cable that radiates coverage the entire length of the cable and as a cable it can be fitted into even the trickiest of spaces. It is an ideal technology to deliver consistent propagation and a robust and reliable system that is suitable for the necessary mission critical safety communication systems needed in a mining environment. 

What kind of deployments have you done in this sector? 

We have a long history in this area and our solutions are the foundation of many wireless networks in mining environments worldwide. The deployments we have delivered have ranged from enhancing networks to meet more stringent safety regulation in the US, to providing connectivity for a slate mine turned tourist attraction. The need for connectivity in each of these examples varies hugely, but the challenges of installing in a difficult underground environment remain the same and RADIAFLEX is able to adapt to meet the requirements of virtually any mining deployment. 

What does the future look like for wireless connectivity in the mining sector?

The mining sector, at the moment, when it comes to connectivity is hugely focused on safety. The key to connectivity in this regard is reliability and robustness – the systems have to deliver consistent coverage in order to be fit for purpose. Because RFS has such a long heritage in delivering connectivity in the mining sector, we have developed solutions that are specifically designed to meet the safety needs of different regions across the globe. In the future we may see the mining industry look to use connectivity differently, looking for 4G / private LTE networks as they move towards industry 4.0 and other data driven applications. Our RADIAFLEX cable can easily be utilized to support these emerging opportunities.

However, certainly for now, both us and our customers are safety focused and we are constantly developing our solutions to keep up with changing regulatory standards and provide the best possible solutions to deliver consistent, contoured coverage in mining environments.