Friday, 21 February 2020 09:11

Vocus caters to remotely located WA firm using NBN Co satellite

The Northern Minerals Brown Range Dome project site. The Northern Minerals Brown Range Dome project site. Supplied

The Vocus Group has signed a deal with rare earths firm Northern Minerals to supply the company's broadband needs in partnership with the NBN Co, the company building Australia's broadband network. The solution uses the NBN Co's business satellite service.

A statement from Vocus highlighted the fact that Northern Minerals is the only company outside China to be producing rare earths from a 55-person pilot plant in the northern region of Western Australia.

The Northern Minerals Browns Range project has had problems getting reliable connectivity due to its remote location, 160km away from the nearest town. The project needed a solution for fast data transfer and voice connectivity.

“There are a lot of challenges with operating such a remote site, so it’s critical we partner with the right organisations who can provide the right solutions,” said Northern Minerals chief operating officer Robin Jones.

Vocus' experience in connecting remote sites and its experience in the resources sector helped it get the contract.

"Connectivity in the resources sector has become such an important part of how we operate systems, gather data and communicate across sites,” said Jones. “It’s also critically important to providing an attractive work environment, lifestyle and ways to ensure the personal health and welfare of our employees.

“That means providing reliable ways for them to stay in touch with family, friends and the rest of the world, as well as be entertained with things such as music and movies.”

rare earths plant

The plant used to processes rare earths. Supplied

Jones said there had been a dramatic improvement in connectivity after switching to the NBN Co's business satellite service.

“As soon as the new connectivity came online, we saw an immediate increase in morale, with people being able to message, talk and Facetime with loved ones without the service dropping out,” he said. “We now have the ability to reliably use video communications and streaming services, and that makes a huge difference in such a remote location. The feedback from our team has been really positive.

“It has been valuable working with a partner like Vocus, who really understands connecting remote areas, what’s involved in partnering with NBN Co, and the kinds of challenges a business like ours can have."

Vocus chief executive, Enterprise & Government, Andrew Wildblood, said in regional and remote areas, the NBN rollout was a great catalyst for change.

northern minerals dawn

Dawn breaks over the Northern Minerals site. Supplied

“It prompts businesses to look at how their network, connectivity and services are provided and consider what options are available in the market,” he said.

“Our experience as a network builder and operator in some of Australia’s most isolated places gives us great insight into the challenges involved in migrating networks. We know how important it is to take the time to understand network and site-specific requirements to ensure a smooth transition.

“It’s something we have an enormous amount of expertise in, which means we can do all the heavy lifting for a customer to keep it simple and provide a brilliant experience.

After a successful trial, a full commercial deployment at the Browns Range Dome site went into production in November 2019.


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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.



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