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AfriCAN insight

Summary:

Fast and reliable broadband connectivity is transforming mining operations across Africa.

Find out how Liquid Telecom is working alongside mining customers such as Metorex to provision networks that can support future high-bandwidth applications, while allowing employees to communicate, collaborate and make decisions in real-time far more easily and effectively.

Customer:

Metorex is an established mid-tier mining company with two mines in the DRC and one in Zambia. Its African HQ is in Johannesburg and its corporate HQ is in Hong Kong. It is a subsidiary of the Jinchuan Group, which is ranked 32nd in China’s top 100 multinational enterprises 2015 ranking.

In 2013 Metorex completely reorganised its ICT infrastructure and functions to create a central management platform for employees to work more productively. However, following the introduction of the new platform – to a very positive reaction internally – it soon became clear that Metorex needed to review its connectivity.

Despite spending US$40,000 per month on C-band V-SAT connectivity into its African operations, Metorex was only receiving 4 Mbps shared between all of its sites. All traffic had to transit via South Africa, resulting in latency of more than 600ms. To make matters worse, expensive truck rolls were required to fix issues in the field.

This situation simply could not support Metorex’s new way of working – particularly as the company was now using VoIP and video conferencing, as well as transferring large files whilst doing live transactions on ERP systems.

Challenges:

Fast and reliable links were essential between its three mines, South Africa and Hong Kong HQ.

Metorex knew it needed connectivity with guaranteed SLAs and QoS. It wanted to centralise around one full-service supplier responsible for connectivity across Africa – and into Hong Kong: a supplier that would also be a long-term partner.

Metorex is technology-agnostic and understands that sometimes it isn’t economical to connect a site with fibre; in fact because the airwaves are uncluttered in mining areas, the optimum network can be provided through a combination of fibre and wireless.

Following detailed research into its options and after recommendations from industry experts, Metorex chose Liquid Telecom to provide a single solution for all its connectivity requirements.

As part of the ongoing build of its award- winning pan-African fibre network, Liquid Telecom included the mining areas of Southern Africa into its plans from the beginning. It is the only MPLS provider within Africa, and therefore the only company able to provide MPLS within a mine. MPLS is of particular importance for mining companies as it provides flexibility for those who run legacy systems.

Solutions:

Metorex and Liquid Telecom restructured the network topology and calculated the most cost-effective way of connecting each site using an MPLS EP-LAN solution.

In Zambia, new fibre was laid to the Chibuluma mine from Liquid Telecom’s existing fibre network, and the mine was connected within just one week of Liquid Telecom being appointed.

Mill feed at Chibuluma mine
Four months later, the Ruashi mine in the DRC was connected using a 5.8GHz point-to-point wireless link to cover the 4km from the existing Liquid Telecom POP at Lubumbashi airport - which connects to Liquid Telecom’s pan-African fibre network.

The Kinsenda mine in the DRC was the next to be connected, with a 5.8GHz link covering the 20km from Liquid Telecom’s existing POP at Kasumbalesa.

The Metorex HQ in Rosebank Johannesburg was also connected by Liquid Telecom’s fibre. Meanwhile Hong Kong was connected using the Liquid Telecom network via Fujairah in the UAE, which provides very aggressive latencies from Africa to the Far East.

Result:

Liquid Telecom has provided Metorex with a fully integrated network with no third party dependencies.

All five connections now receive 10Mbps, enabling Big Data transfer. The network has almost 100% availability, so Metorex no longer needs a backup V-SAT service; while a multitude of new services have been made possible, including the creation of a new VLAN and global video conferencing over private IP and the Internet.

Metorex has been able to standardise and develop its ERP system to improve the user experience, drive costs down and introduce standard reports and financial processes. It has also achieved cost savings by centralising various tools for planning, geology, engineering, surveying, maintenance etc. Metorex now has a network which can support future high- bandwidth applications which are being developed for the mining industry.

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