Mine sites linked by microwave

Macarthur Coal is one of Australia's leading independent producers of coal for use in the production of steel and is a key supplier to the steel mills of Asia, Europe and Brazil. In the process of expanding operations, Macarthur Coal needed to install both internet and telephone communication services for company staff and two separate groups of subcontractors.

Macarthur Coal is one of Australia's leading independent producers of coal for use in the production of steel and is a key supplier to the steel mills of Asia, Europe and Brazil. In the process of expanding operations, Macarthur Coal needed to install both internet and telephone communication services for company staff and two separate groups of subcontractors.

A new mine site, Moorvale, was established approximately 15 km south-west of the existing Coppabella Mine which is situated approximately 140 km south-west of Mackay. Macarthur Coal planned to expand the existing services at Coppabella to Moorvale, which would allow routing of all data and telephone calls through Coppabella and negate the requirement for a separate system at Moorvale.

Macarthur Coal had two options to achieve these infrastructure goals. The first option was to install a fibre-optic cable at a cost of approximately $350K. The second option was to install a high-speed wireless system which would cost considerably less; however, a system of this nature requires clear line of sight between the two locations and this was not the case.

In order to overcome this obstacle, Wave1 suggested that an intermediate site that had clear line of sight to both sites be used as a repeater. This option meant that two back-to-back microwave systems were required which would double the supply, installation and licence fee costs but which would still be a far lower cost than installing fibre-optic cable.

Wave1's wireless option has given Macarthur Coal greater flexibility, including the ability to relocate the system in years to come if requirements change and to expand the communications network for future projects in the area.

When Macarthur Coal evaluated its needs it considered the reliability of fibre-optic cable and had concerns about back-hoe attenuation as a fibre in this location would cross a number of property boundaries and the potential for damage to the cable would be high. Also obtaining the required approvals to dig and install a fibre-optic cable over this distance would be an issue and could potentially be a long, drawn-out process.

The technical requirements meant that the system had to accommodate Macarthur Coal's voice and data services from Coppabella to Moorvale and had to support VoIP, E1 interfaces and Fast Ethernet. It also had to accommodate two separate subcontractors' needs with both voice and data links from Coppabella to Moorvale.

Wave1's solution included the installation of large towers which gave Macarthur Coal the option to add other systems as required. Macarthur Coal now has 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet and 4 x E1 services. Separate data services were achieved using VLans. Both the subcontractors installed their own PABX and can be billed individually by their carrier.

For further information visit www.wave1.com.au

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