China’s first private 5G network will be used in the day-to-day operations at a coal mine in Shandong Province, in line with Beijing’s push to modernise heavy industry through digital transformation.
The network, built by state-owned Shandong Energy Group, was deployed at their Baodian Coal Mine subsidiary in East China and went live in late October.
The next-gen line delivers much faster data transmission inside the mine, according to a report from China Central Television (CCTV). The coal mine’s new network reaches the bottom of the sometimes hundreds of meters deep shafts in 20 milliseconds in contrast to the four to five second delays experienced with 4G networks.
The state-owned television station said the significant time difference allows for workers on the surface to control high-precision instruments with more accuracy and speed.
The private 5G network is “explosion-proof”, said CCTV. Relative to standard 5G setups, the Baodian 5G network was purpose-built to withstand some of the extreme conditions experienced underground. The 5G network can deal with electromagnetic changes underground that may interfere with its integrity.
Ivan Platonov, a Beijing-based analyst with the research group, EqualOcean, said a ”great deal of money” had been invested into 5G. Local governments and enterprises have been encouraged to expand 5G’s reach, as Beijing sees this as a matter of strategic importance.
5G investments between 2020 to 2035 are forecast to reach $3.5 trillion, according to a Huawei white paper on 5G industrial equipment. Huawei’s report highlighted mining along with 11 other promising industrial applications that include logistics, smart cities, and entertainment that could benefit substantially from investment.
The industrial-level gear used to create the Baodian 5G network was provided by Beidou Tiandi, a smart mining equipment maker, established ten years ago. The group became part of the Shandong Energy Group when it and fellow state-owned operation, Yankuang Group, merged with Shandong Energy Group in August this year.
According to Li Shan, an analyst at the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, there are 480 000 5G base stations in China with 100 million devices linked to 5G infrastructure.