LTE Adoption in Vertical Markets

With most of the main players in the telecoms industry i.e. the tier 1 operators already heavily invested in LTE networks, busy rolling out to the masses there is a groundswell of activity happening behind the scenes in vertical markets such as Oil, Gas and Mining, Medical and Agriculture. As LTE becomes more prevalent in society so do the applications for its use in diverse market sectors.

At some point in the not too distant past an employee in the opencast iron ore mining industry in Australia realised the benefit of low latency and higher uplink bandwidth and must have thought “I know let’s put this new fangled technology to good use and control our 200 ton dump trucks autonomously and do away with the horrible human that costs us a fortune to employ”.

This might have been a crazy idea at the time but the two major players in the mining industry Downunder, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have invested heavily in LTE to do just that and more. Whether it be massive dump trucks, smaller vehicles, trains or even drill rigs LTE is increasingly being used to replace expensive and unreliable human beings in what is effectively a very hostile and dangerous environment. The software and hardware technology to create autonomous behemoths has been around for many years. Forward and reward facing cameras, GPS, slope detection sensors, lasers and distance measurement equipment etc. but it is only with the advent of low latency and higher uplink data rates that the information from all of these sensors has been able to be collected and reliably sent back to a main control centre for realtime analysis.
T
he early adoption of LTE in the mining industry was tentative and not without its detractors however the success of this technology is now very apparent. One of the two big players has even applied for and been granted their own PLMN effectively making them one of the Australian LTE network operators alongside household names such as Telstra and Vodafone. As the rollout of LTE in one of the mines has been shown to be of great benefit to the industry there are now plans to expand the rollout to 10 more mines in the region as well as 2 major shipping ports and 3,600 kilometres of railway. LTE really has found a new home in the hostile land of North Western Australia and looks to be going from strength to strength.

So for those amongst us that can fondly remember their childhood days playing with Tonka toys and train sets or are now trying to get to grips with controlling their newly purchased drone with their smartphone be jealous of the guys in the Aussie Outback that are doing just that with the power of LTE but on a larger than life scale and getting paid to do so.

Who said life was fair?