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Nokia has joined a global collaboration that will see the company deploy its private wireless network – known as Nokia Digital Automation Cloud – to facilitate better communication in underground mining operations.

Nokia has joined forces with NORCAT – a global skilled labour training organisation – and Canada’s Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks (CENGN) to install and operate an industrial-grade private wireless network in NORCAT’s Underground Centre in Ontario, Canada.

The NORCAT Underground Centre enables startups, SMEs and international companies to develop, test and demonstrate innovative and emerging technologies in an operating mine environment.

The Nokia Digital Automation Cloud will provide a high bandwidth, low-latency private LTE wireless network to support mission-critical communication services, asset tracking and remote-controlled autonomous vehicles.

The platform enables secure wireless communications between miners and surface personnel, including push-to-talk and push-to-video services.

Stephan Litjens, general manager at Nokia Digital Automation said the LTE/4.9G wireless provides mobile coverage and supports a larger amount of active connections per access point with far greater reliability and security than legacy wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi.

“With LTE today, and 5G tomorrow, we will enable a new era of industrial-grade wireless communication that will facilitate improved productivity, worker safety and environmental sustainability for mines around the world,” he said.

Nokia has provided wireless technology to the mining community – including partnering with Komatsu and Sandvik to power autonomous haulage and IoT solutions.

The Nokia Digital Automation Cloud could enable applications, such as underground asset tracking, autonomous vehicles, and drone surveillance.

Don Duval, Chief executive of NORCAT said private LTE is a big step forward for the industry.

“The Nokia Digital Automation Cloud as a platform within the Underground Centre will enable the exploration and creation of innovative solutions for mining,” he said.

Jean-Charles Fahmy, CEO of CENGN, said the collaboration was an important milestone for the global mining industry.

“We’re looking forward to providing our technical expertise and access to our network testbed as we all work together to develop new digital transformation use-cases and emerging technologies to drive and accelerate mining innovation,” he said.