Russian telecom operator MTS and Swedish technology developer Ericsson have teamed up to deliver a dedicated private network to the British multinational company Evraz’s Sheregeshskaya mine in south-central Russia. As part of the contract supporting the company’s digital transformation program at the iron-ore mine, Ericsson and MTS will deploy a commercial LTE/5G-ready private network built on the Ericsson Dedicated Networks solution.
The Sheregeshskaya mine is a pilot area for digital transformation begun by Evraz in 2020, where the latest technologies are introduced to increase industrial safety, boost equipment efficiency, and improve production. Set to be integrated with the mine’s existing communication network and IT infrastructure, the wireless dedicated network provided by MTS and Ericsson will be the first stage in the transformation program.
The solution will include a system for voice radio communications, video broadcasting, emergency notifications, dispatching, positioning, and autonomous control of mining equipment, based on carrier-grade Ericsson Enterprise Core and Ericsson Radio System Micro nodes. The network will lay the foundation for a seamless upgrade to 5G in the future without requiring significant changes in architecture.
In January, MTS deployed a private 4G/LTE network for the mining company Uralkaliy. The pilot area was built in a mine of the company in the Perm region 400 meters below ground. That network is also planned to scale to 5G technology in the future. In November, MTS signed an agreement with the gold and silver mining company Polimetall. The operator and Ericsson will deploy a private 5G-ready network for the company at its gold-mining site Nezhdaninskoye in the Republic of Sakha.
With telecom operators everywhere looking to expand their purview and increase their relevance amid market conditions that promise diminishing returns from traditional services, bespoke networks have emerged as a compelling market category. Major MNOs with the wherewithal to do cutting-edge research and development and take on such projects have the potential to realize significant returns on investment. Rather than simply acquiring large enterprises as mobile clients, they enter into deeper and longer-term relationships providing a special and high-priced service in the form of a custom-built private network. Partnering with companies such as Ericsson that are rich in experience and expertise is essential for this kind of endeavor, even for the most sophisticated MNOs.
While many kinds of companies, especially in heavy industry, may wish to have private networks, a mining operation is particularly well suited to this kind of solution. Since so much of the work goes on underground, where existing mobile signals cannot penetrate, and because mines are often located in remote areas, there is a need for a network targeted only at the mining operations, and one that communicates with the underground areas. MTS’ network for Evraz, like the ones it recently produced for Uralkaliy and Polimetall, brings not only mobile connectivity but other value-added elements including IoT, in the form of autonomous control of mining equipment.
The scalable 5G-readiness of the network solution makes it especially desirable, considering the growing importance of 5G for IoT applications.