Friday, 22 November 2019
Industry Q&A: Creating a Future of Connected Networks
Austmine Limited
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Industry Q&A: Creating a Future of Connected Networks

This was originally published by 3D-P.

3D-P was originally founded by mining and positioning technology experts in 1996. Over the years, the team have continually brought new communication and innovative technologies to the mining industry. Austmine recently caught up with 3D-P to find out more about their latest offering, a hybrid LTE/InstaMesh® Solution.

Current Challenges for LTE in Australian Mining

The challenges vary a bit, depending on available spectrum. LTE technology provides significant advantages in many areas, including available transmission power and receiver sensitivity. This combination allows connection farther from infrastructure than previously experienced with Wi-Fi in similar frequency ranges.

Incomplete coverage

While base station (eNodeB) powers are significantly higher and receiver sensitivities much greater in cellular technologies, terrain can provide a major obstacle to coverage in many cases, particularly in drop cuts and other tightly confined areas. Shovels and draglines themselves are also often a major cause of blind spots for haul trucks, dozers, and other equipment working near this equipment as they can significantly attenuate and block RF signals by obstruction.

One solution to overcoming this challenge is in standing up additional cells around these areas to overcome blind spot issues. However, management of in-pit infrastructure presents its own challenges in frequent trailer moves, etc.

3D-P has developed a hybrid solution that utilizes a Rajant® InstaMesh node in each 3D-P Intelligent 2Endpoint® client, along with the LTE modem. The LTE modem participates in the Mesh in this scenario. As part of the mesh, traffic can utilize the LTE link whenever it is available, and has the lowest latency. However, when the LTE link is lost, such as around a shovel, or blocked by terrain, traffic is able to utilize another of the available InstaMesh radios in the endpoint, being routed through the shovel, or another nearby truck to utilize that device’s LTE link as backhaul. InstaMesh routing happens 3D-P instantaneously, on a packet by packet basis, so roaming between the two technologies becomes a non-event, with traffic from switching from one modem to the other in far less than a millisecond.  

Asymmetrical Throughput

Traditionally, the use case for LTE technology has been for consumer consumption of media where users typically pull more data from the network, as compared to most mining applications that have the client pushing data to the network. The result is a network which has limited client uplink throughput capability, when compared to the high-throughput capable 802.11n networks of today.

Solving this challenge is again handled through the use of additional technologies in conjunction with the LTE solution. A hybrid network allows the clients to utilize either the LTE or Wi-Fi to transmit its traffic, with the ultimate hybrid solution being the InstaMesh solution that sends traffic over the best link any time, and doesn’t require any Wi-Fi infrastructure in order to provide the extended coverage capability it provides.

The layered solution comes into play in several key data locations.

  • In-pit Wi-Fi hotspots can be utilized to offload data in high traffic areas, drastically increasing the throughput capability of the overall solution.
  • The Distribution Layer can also be utilized to connect cameras, buildings, and other locations that do not have the same mobility requirement as the typical LTE client, again removing that traffic from the asymmetrical LTE links.Finally, these additional network layers may be utilized to connect remote cell towers, or eNodeB’s that might be deployed on solar trailers around the network, back to the packet core, further augmenting the coverage of the LTE network itself.

L3 Connection

One of the biggest challenges with LTE in a mining environment is the requirement of many mining applications to communicate over a Layer 2 (L2) connection, while LTE is a Layer 3 (L3) technology.

In simple terms, many mining applications utilize network protocols that require the mobile client and the application server to be attached or communicating within the same network, however when connected to an LTE network their traffic is routed outside the network (L3) which breaks the traffic flow and therefore requires another layer of complexity to solve the problem.

The 3D-P hybrid LTE/InstaMesh client solution successfully solves this challenge. The solution creates a L2 tunnel over the LTE link and manages that connection. The local network available over the InstaMesh radios, and the network available over the tunnel are the same network. When the LTE link is lost, the client works to re-establish that connection, while traffic is routed over one of the InstaMesh radios to another network client where the traffic is then sent over its connected LTE radio, or the traffic may be sent to an available local network connected infrastructure device. When LTE connectivity and the tunnel is re-established, traffic can be sent over that link again, with no disruption to connectivity.

Supporting autonomy

With its non-event roaming capability, the hybrid LTE/InstaMesh solution ensures your autonomous equipment has mission critical connectivity with high throughput, low latency and the necessary level of redundancy. Where connectivity to the network is king, the hybrid solution stands alone. The solution provides the ultimate in redundancy, ensuring delivery of every packet.

Supporting network design requirements where desired, the 3D-P hybrid client can also support the segregation of your network allowing the autonomous application to reside on its own network, while the other applications reside on a separate network, providing additional control of the network for autonomy.

To find out more about 3D-P’s hybrid LTE/InstaMesh® Solution, please visit their website.

Author

Ron White, President at 3D-P

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Ron has been with 3D-P since 2004, driving the company’s focus on wireless network design for challenging environments, as well as the Intelligent Endpoint, mining application integration, and open access to data. As President, Ron is continuing to drive the company’s vision toward enabling digitalization, and the IIOT. Through his tenure with 3D-P, Ron has held senior positions in many of the companies departments, leading the service and support groups, product management, product development and sales. Ron has an extensive background in wireless, networking, field deployments and mining applications and is well known for his ability to teach, motivate, and drive consensus. His aptitude and demonstrated success align perfectly with his role as President of 3D-P Technologies.  

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