PRESS RELEASE: As 5G becomes more deeply integrated into mining operations, complex underground operating environments are impeding the comprehensive intelligent upgrade of mines. The 5G Deep Mobile Network (DMN) smart mining solution has been developed to overcome the problems facing underground mobile communications and plays a vital role in the digital and intelligent transformation of the mining industry.

Since the commercial launch of 5G, China Mobile has been accelerating the construction of information infrastructure typified by 5G and the deployment of 5G basic mine networks, facilitating smart operations at mines that require minimal or even no staff. The operator has built 5G basic mine networks at a number of mines, such as Xinyuan Coal Mine and Madiliang Coal Mine, reducing the labor required for heading faces and fully mechanized mining faces, and achieving the remote monitoring of fixed posts. Due to the complexity of underground operating environments, comprehensive intelligent upgrade of mines is facing numerous problems, such as those related to safety risks, high labor costs, lack of effective supervision methods, and service silos.

Underground mines primarily include eight core working scenarios, namely main roadway, pipeline, fully mechanized mining face, main working roadway, coal conveyor belt, electromechanical chamber, heading face, and ground monitoring and command center.

Underground scenarios, in contrast to above-ground scenarios, challenge network capabilities in four major areas:

First, the narrow space and high explosion-proof requirements of underground mines make it difficult to deploy networks and ensure proper equipment functioning, coverage, and network availability.

Second, the co-existence of underground communications, video, positioning, voice, and IoT networks leads to scattered data collection, processing, decision-making, and control execution capabilities, impeding intelligent development.

Third, operations that require minimal or no staff necessitate superb network performance, such as high uplink rate, high capacity, and high-precision positioning.

Fourth, the large number of underground network systems complicates the on-site O&M and unified O&M of multiple networks, making it necessary to upgrade network O&M.

These challenges can be addressed with 5G DMN’s ubiquitous connectivity technology system, which can help achieve the full intelligence of mining and other sectors. The goal of 5G DMN is to use 5G technology to build a dedicated, intelligent and comprehensive underground mobile communications network that features ubiquitous connectivity, superior performance, multiple functions, and simplified O&M, in order to support intelligent sensing, decision-making, and control of mines.

In the pursuit of ubiquitous connectivity, equipment customization and flexible spectrum use serve as the basis for network coverage, and flexible networking technologies, like multi-band coordination and signal relay, are also employed for mine networks, which change as mining operations advance. In addition, by improving equipment reliability, upgrading equipment and link redundancy, and enhancing inertial running, 5G DMN achieves high network availability, with annual network interruption duration ranging from 5.26 minutes to 526 minutes, ensuring continuous network operation and preventing services from being interrupted during network disconnection.

5G DMN offers superior performance, featuring super uplink capability that ensures data security by keeping data within mines. This is achieved in the following ways: (1) The flexible combination of spectrum resources, flexible adjustment of uplink-downlink subframe configuration, and enhancement of equipment capability customization comprehensively improve the uplink capacity and single-user peak rate of networks; DMN’s super uplink capability supports the massive deployment of cameras for coal-mining roadways, coal conveyor belts, and fully mechanized mining faces; for example, 20 to 30 cameras are required for the remote control of fully mechanized mining faces and every kilometer of coal-mining roadway; (2) Given narrow spaces and the sparse deployment of base stations underground, a communications+positioning network is built based on 5G and ubiquitous wireless connectivity to provide meter-level and decimeter-level positioning precision, while a local positioning architecture is used to keep data on-premises.

5G DMN also supports multiple functions by providing high-quality local connections, ample local computing power, and rich local capabilities based on an underground 5G network and equipment such as 5G base stations, and lays a digital foundation for multi-network convergence and cloud-network-service convergence, facilitating the integration of information, management, resources, and services.

To simplify O&M, 5G DMN provides functions like equipment status monitoring, network indicator monitoring, and capability openness based on a 5G private network management platform for mines. It also employs self-developed technologies to meet the requirements of industry users for self-O&M, self-service, and self-development, and uses network digital twin to accelerate the in-depth integration of 5G networks and enterprise production and enable refined production management and operations. AI foundation models are applied to the mining industry to transform mines in four areas. In the first of these, AI foundation models promote the transition from high-risk production to intrinsically-safe production. The models intelligently control, warn of, and eliminate unsafe factors related to people and unsafe statuses of things. This enhances safety self-management and self-governance capabilities and reduces the probability of safety incidents. Second, AI foundation models transform mining from being labor-intensive to simplified and efficient. Machine vision technology based on foundation models optimizes routine inspection and safety supervision, improving production efficiency and reducing the intensity and amount of labor. Third, AI foundation models enable a shift from extensive management to high-quality, benefit-oriented management. The production parameters of mines are predicted and controlled through production data modeling to strike a balance between production quality and cost, and are constantly optimized to improve production efficiency and benefits. Fourth, AI foundation models upgrade dispersed and repetitive construction to intensive and efficient construction. The unified construction and management of AI applications help avoid repeated investment and siloed construction by multiple units, and realize intensive public training computing services, service scenario innovation, business conversion application development, and AI talent cultivation.

Deploying the 5G DMN solution will bring powerful new network capabilities to underground mines and drive comprehensive upgrades, enabling optimal monitoring, sensing, control, connection, and computing:

First, high-quality video transmission ensures the clear and comprehensive monitoring of production safety, as well as a large number of people and environments.

Second, ubiquitous IoT positioning enables multi-dimensional and real-time sensing of equipment operation and environmental status as well as the high-precision positioning and management of personnel, vehicles, and equipment.

Third, precise and agile remote control is applied to various types of on-site core production equipment as well as unmanned driving.

Fourth, real-time and high-quality communications are available anytime, anywhere, improving production efficiency and safety.

Fifth, on-site computing power is integrated into networks to achieve collaborative and efficient computing, eliminate the need for multiple networks, and prevent data silos.

China Mobile is working with industry partners such as China Broadnet and Huawei to promote the development of the 5G DMN industry in the areas of technology, standards, industry, and ecosystem. These efforts are geared towards the construction of premium, intelligent, and comprehensive underground 5G communications networks that feature ubiquitous connectivity, superior performance, multiple functions, and simplified O&M. Furthermore, 5G DMN is widely applicable beyond the mining sector. While setting a benchmark for underground mines, China Mobile is looking to expand 5G DMN to more underground scenarios, such as utility tunnels, metro tunnels, and underground rescue.