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‘Smart mine’ takes 5G network 500 meters underground

(Image credit: Huawei)

Not content with taking 5G to the peak of Everest, China Mobile and Huawei have now taken next generation networking 500 meters underground, in partnership with China’s largest hard coal producer, Yangquan Coal Industry.

“It is explosion proof. The upper part is the antenna and the lower part is the core equipment called the RRU (remote radio unit). The yellow part is a certified explosion-proof shell.”

Zhang Xiaoquiang, miner.

The new network has been set up in a mine in Shanxi Province, paving the way for intelligent mining based on 5G technology, and shows off another example of 5G use cases. And according to Chinese news outlets, the 5G network in Yangquan’s subsidiary, Xinyuan, is the country’s first commercial 5G service to be completed under a coal mine shaft.

“This is the first base station at our coal mine,”explained Zhang Xiaoquiang, head of one of the mining teams in Shanxi. “It is explosion proof. The upper part is the antenna and the lower part is the core equipment called the RRU (remote radio unit). The yellow part is a certified explosion-proof shell.”

(Image credit: Future)

Upload rate above 800Mbps

According to Chinese news website Xinhua, Wang Haigang, Deputy Manager of Xinyuan, said the 5G network had been in “stable operation for a week”, after its introduction earlier in May. 

The data upload rate is above 800Mbps and the transmission latency is less than 20 milliseconds in the mine, enabling a variety of applications such as high-definition audio and video communications and remote intelligent control of equipment to free up more workers from the dangerous working environment.

Wang Guofa, from the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Wang Guofa, from the Chinese Academy of Engineering. (Image credit: Chinese Academy of Engineering.)

“To realize intelligent mining, or unmanned mining under a shaft, we need a smart operation which requires data transmission,” said Wang Guofa, from the Chinese Academy of Engineering. “The three advantages of 5G technology are ultrafast connectivity, broad bandwidth, and low latency. These advantages meet the requirements of smart mining.”

The partnership between China Mobile and Huawei is expected to reduce its labour force in one underground team from more than 170, to about 90, whilst maintaining the current levels of coal output.

This is only the first step in a long process, though, as the mining company is implementing  5G networking with a view to introducing its first  “smart mine” in the next few years. 

And Yangquan Coal Industry Group is not alone in embracing the new technology. According to Liu Feng, Vice Chairman of the China National Coal Association, China now has more than 5,000 coal mines, which have built more than 200 intelligent mining platforms facilitated with automated equipment. And 5G networks will be integral to the development of smart mining within China.


Dan is a British journalist with 20 years of experience in the design and tech sectors, producing content for the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, Dell and The Sunday Times. In 2012 he helped launch the world's number one design blog, Creative Bloq. Dan is now editor-in-chief at 5Gradar, where he oversees news, insight and reviews, providing an invaluable resource for anyone looking to stay up-to-date with the key issues facing 5G.