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Boliden joins NorthStar to upgrade its underground 5G network

Boliden has been working for years to digitize and automate its mining operations in order to increase productivity and safety, and already uses remotely controlled and autonomous vehicles and drilling machines. Robust and secure digital infrastructure – including reliable wireless networks – is a prerequisite when investing in new technology, so joining the NorthStar 5G innovation program was the natural choice for Boliden.

“It feels great to welcome Boliden to NorthStar,” says Magnus Leonhardt, Head of Strategy and Innovation for Telia Sweden’s B2B business. “Telia, Ericsson and Boliden have had a close collaboration for many years, and together built the world’s first underground 5G network. Our work together has come a long way and our focus is now on connecting vehicles, equipment and people in the mine to the 5G network and understanding what the requirements on the network are in order to be able to roll it out more broadly in a production environment.”

The private 5G network at Boliden’s mine in Kankberg will be modernized and expanded, and then connected to the specially developed innovation network used in the NorthStar program, thereby gaining access to new technical capabilities such as positioning, network slicing and edge computing.

“We are now entering an exciting phase in our collaboration with Telia and Ericsson,” says Stefan Castehav, Senior Development Engineer at Boliden. “For us, this investment is about stress-testing 5G and exploring new functions in the 5G network, such as being able to prioritize data traffic between different vehicles and machines in the mine. This will ensure that everything connected to the network will have the exact capacity, stability and security that it requires. This is important as digitization is progressing rapidly and we are using increasingly advanced connected equipment in the mine, which places greater demands on the network. Another purpose of this collaboration is to evaluate what it’s like to build and manage 5G networks hundreds of meters underground.”

Joining the NorthStar 5G innovation program will also enable Boliden to benefit from the highly accurate location information provided by 5G positioning functionality, which has the potential to save lives when operating remotely controlled and autonomous machines and vehicles deep underground.

Telia has already delivered a complete communication and IT services solution to Boliden, including a private 5G-ready mobile network deployed at Sweden’s largest copper mine in Aitik, northern Sweden.

Currently, a handful of selected partners are participating in the NorthStar program, including Magna, Luleå University of Technology and AstaZero, a full-scale test environment for automated transport systems outside Gothenburg that is run by the RISE research institute. Technically, the NorthStar innovation network consists of a new 5G core network that is integrated with Telia Sweden’s existing, public 5G network, which is being rapidly rolled out across the country and currently covers more than 90% of the population.

CT Bureau

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