Critical Communication – Wi-Fi Underground Communications System

Managing business requirements alongside safety for staff who work underground can be a sensitive balancing act, and one that you can’t afford to fail.

Because of this it is important to take advantage of improvements in technical and new product development aimed at reducing business costs, upgrading business information and improving staff safety.

The Wi-Fi Underground Communication System (UCS) was developed by Powertec Telecommunications in conjunction with our resellers for a specific client to improve their current method of communication when staff were traversing underground tunnels.

The final result produced great outcomes for the client – less staff required to do the task, better communication and improved safety. The Altai Super WiFi Underground Communication System was tested head to head with an alternative popular competitor and beat them across the board in terms of ease of operation, coverage and signal strength.

The Wi-Fi Underground Communication System Model


The client brief was to update communications when traversing through the network of underground tunnels by replacing the UHF push to talk/2way radio system used to communicate between the surface and the traverse teams.  The UHF system was used primarily for voice communications and was unreliable, with fairly sketchy service on occasion and only operated in shortWi-Fi Underground range.  These issues did not support robust health and safety outcomes, they placed limits on the amount of tunnel investigation work done underground in a single session, and did not allow widespread communication when issues forced further consultation with other company staff.

Powertec suggested that Wi-Fi be tested and worked with the partner client to arrive at the solution.  Wi-Fi initially had its own challenges – it had to operate above and below ground, the best frequency had to be determined and it needed to be reliable over some very adverse terrain.  One issue imperative to address was how to create a closed loop IP Network to allow handover from end to end.


The UCS was pre-configured and provided as a boxed solution in a high impact Pelican suitcase.  Altai Super WiFi products were used due to their high quality carrier grade and proven performance to increase capacity and extend coverage.

  • Altai A2

The Altai A2 is a powerful access point/bridge solution with an integrated Wi-Fi Underground5GHz backhaul radio and antenna, designed for micro WiFi coverage and high throughput PTP/PTMP bridging. The A2 includes a MIMO 2.4GHz 801.11 b/g/n radio with a set of 2 antenna ports, and a MIMO 5GHz 802.11a/n radio with an integrated dual-slant high-gain antenna, making it a simple-to-deploy solution for remote micro coverage with integrated backhaul.

  • Altai C1an / C1xan

The C1an and C1xan are high-performance WAP’s designed to increase WiFi signal strength (transmission and reception) as well as the client’s throughput.  They can be configured as AP, STN, Repeater Bridge.

  • Rugged HSP/LTE routers
  • ICOM Handheld communication device

Proof of Concept

It was determined that using the 5ghz was the better frequency as it would tend to reflects of surfaces rather than penetrate – a benefit when working with underground tunnels that are not straight. All staff held an ICOM device that controlled the Wi-Fi push to talk system.

The test was conducted in a 1.8km stretch of tunnel with man hole access entrances at each end of the test section.  The Wi-Fi Undergroundtunnel was a dogleg shape.

An Altai A2 was winched down on a tripod via the access entrance at each end of the tunnel, positioned to face each other. A router was positioned at the top of each access entrance along with an Altai C1an for surface access.

The positioning of the Altai products above and below the ground produced a closed loop IP network that the ICOM Wi-Fi push to talk hand phones could operate on.

Traverse staff and rescue teams already work with a backpack carrying their required items and a modified battery powered Altai C1xan with external antennas was included (adding Wi-Fi Undergroundno more than 1kg to the total weight).  This acted as a repeater for the signal from the A2 that was positioned at the access point at the start of the tunnel entrance.  As the team traverses the tunnel doing their investigation, the C1xan within the backpack reaches a predetermined threshold and then hands over to the next A2.

The handover threshold in this instance occurred at 1250 metres into the tunnel from the starting point.

There are a number of ways to handle the movement of the Wi-Fi IP network and this case study would potentially move the 1st UCS components and leapfrog it to the 3rd access entrance. The 2nd UCS would then be turned around to face the 3rd and staff could begin their traverse of the new section.

Wi-Fi Underground
Wi-Fi Underground Communication System Network Diagram (case specific)

Final Outcome

A typical above and below ground traverse team could comprise of: 2 teams tunnel traverse staff each supported by a rescue team, chemists, engineers, a communications specialist, and an underground rescue specialist.  It would not be uncommon for 24 people to spend the day investigating one 2km length of tunnel.  If there were any issues found, that number would grow as HQ staff and additional specialists may be needed at the site for consultation.

Utilising the Wi-Fi UCS could eliminate the need for engineers, chemists, management and other staff to be onsite.  The access to Wi-Fi now provides data from the underground traverse – vision, voice, video, monitoring, air quality sensors and more.

Communication can now be done with relevant management, chemists, and engineers, providing live access but no need for staff to leave their offices.  Project costs would be reduced.

The traverse can now be done in a reduced time.  It is possible that productivity could increase by over 200% (10km in one day instead of 2km).

Safety standards would improved for staff with access to live images and constant contact.


The Wi-Fi Underground Communication System should result in cost savings, increased productivity and improved staff conditions – it has applications across a myriad of industries who manage the following kit:

  • Water pipe/sewerage monitoring
  • Underground tunnels
  • Gas pipe inspections
  • Lift shafts
  • Stormwater drains
  • Water tanks, gas tanks, ships
  • Building sites/high rise buildings
  • Underwater exploration (currently proof of concept stage)

Where you have a job that can be run from a packet switch network there is no need to send maximum people to do the work.  You can utilise vision and data from a UCS system to improve the access and save money.

Contact Us Today about your Wi-Fi Options

If you have a client in need of this application, Powertec are able to assist with your proof of concept along with design, construction and configuration.

Powertec have access to a number of Wi-Fi experts across Australia who specialise in planning and installation and the Wi-Fi Underground Communication System. For a referral to a local expert on mobile and Wi-Fi solutions in your area, please contact us at Powertec – 07 5577 0500 or [email protected]

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    Accommodation Park Wifi Case Study

    The mining company currently using the site for its FIFO workers noticed that the moral of the workers had increased greatly after the Park WiFi installation due to staff ability to maintain communications with family and friends back home.

    Business Profile

    The town of Wandoan is situated midway between Brisbane (389kms south east) and Rockhampton (376km North East).  Not a big town, at the 2011 census, Wandoan had a population of 665.  One notable Australian who grew up in the town is Australian, Queensland and Brisbane rugby league captain Darren Lockyer.

    The town’s economy is traditionally (since 1853) based on agriculture, including wheat and cattle with mining for coal and gas, growing industries.

    The Wandoan Accommodation Park, is just off the Leichhardt Highway on a very popular inland route north heading towards tropical Queensland.  The 3.5 acre landscaped Park caters for caravans and camping but also provides 3 to 4 star cabins, suites and apartments for those who prefer to maintain their standards whilst getting back to nature.

    Business Needspark wifi

    With the rise of mining in the area, the Wandoan Accommodation Park has of late been used to house mining staff while they work on site on a fly in, fly out basis.

    It is usual for a fly in, fly out job to involve longer shifts with little recreation facilities available to staff. However to attract and retain staff, accommodation facilities now need to ensure there are improved after hours facilities available.  By and large, Wandoan Accommodation Park provided an excellent base for staff with a pool, restaurant, BBQ’s and more available to while away the hours while working and away from their homes and families.  The one area the Park did not excel in was provision of Park WiFi services.

    Due to the construction of the accommodation the buildings (dongas), signal penetration with traditional access points was intermittent at best which lead to poor user experience.

    Business Solution Park WiFi

    After site visit and review by telecommunications expert Daniel Davis from Darktime Computer Services, coverage plans were produced and once agreed upon, install was undertaken.

    park wifi

    Product/s Used

    2 x A2Ei – 2.4GHz used for client access and 5GHz used for back haul. The Altai A2-Ei WiFi Dual-band Access Point is designed to be used in Altai Super WiFi systems to provide 2.4 and 5 GHz dual-band dual-concurrent access coverage for both outdoor and indoor areas, and to increase system capacity, extend coverage, fill-in areas of low or blocked signals caused by obstructions. It is capable of providing the highest possible data throughput and capacity that the 802.11n standards can offer.

    14 x C1n – In back to back mode complementing Altai’s super Wi-Fi base station coverage solution are the C1n high-performance CPEs, which employ a patented smart-signal processing algorithm and an antenna designed to increase Wi-Fi signal strength (transmission and reception) as well as the client’s throughput.

    AltaiCare – AltaiCare is a cloud-based network management and service control software system. It is designed for fast and cost saving service provisioning, as well as location-aware content management and big data analytics to help defining sales and marketing strategies based on customer behaviour.

    Darktime Computer Services use the system for managing and monitoring the health of the network. Due to the site being a couple of hours away from their offices AltaiCare assists by providing real time vision and reporting. AltaiCare is used by the site owner to manage and control client access, bandwidth and data allowances. Prepaid, subscription and WPA-PSK access provides multiple levels of access to users and site management.

    Darktime Computer Services received calls from the park owner commenting on how painless the 2 day installation had been.

    Contact Us Today about your Wi-Fi Options

    The Wandoan Accommodation Park Wi-Fi was installed by Darktime Computer Services.  Darktime are Wi-Fi, Computer and mobile coverage experts.  They service the Western and Darling Downs Region of Queensland including Chinchilla, Dalby and Condamine.  For more information on this install you can contact Principal Daniel directly on [email protected] or call 07 466 89 991.

    Powertec have access to a number of installers across Australia who specialise in Park WiFi among many types of installations including extending the NBN signal. For a referral to a local expert on mobile and wi-fi solutions in your area, please contact us at Powertec. 07 5577 0500 or [email protected]

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      Liquefied Natural Gas Field WiFi – Deployment of Altai Super WiFi

      Liquefied Natural Gas Field WiFi Deployment Case Study

      One A8 Super WiFi Base Station is enough to provide 360-degree coverage to the dormitories within a 1 km range.

      The Papua New Guinea liquefied natural gas (PNG LNG) project is a new gas project championed by ExxonMobil to realise the potential of three large gas discoveries in the southern and western highlands of the country.

      Many engineers and workers live on site and require high performance Internet access for web surfing and communication after work. The Chiyoda-JGC (CJJV) joint venture needed a rapid solution for its wireless network and they chose Altai Technologies products to access the high speed WiFi network.

      Owing to the geographical environment of the site, only satellite can be used as backhaul.

      The Challenge

      The site is located just north of Port Moresby, the backhaul is provided by a satellite link. CJJV required long range wireless technologies so as to minimise the number of installation sites for cost saving. Provide signal coverage over the entire large, high density dormitory area. Support high user capacity to cope with heavy usage, particularly after working hours.

      The Solution

      The A8 base station was installed at the central argas field wifiea of the dormitory site to provide 360-degree coverage. The Altai C1’s were installed in different buildings to extend the outdoor WiFi signal and to provide indoor coverage.  The backhaul was provided by a satellite link.

      This supplied a complete end-to-end solution including service control, billing and pre-paid card systems.

      The Result

      The Altai A8 achieved a line-of-sight range of over 1km to provide high speed wireless connectivity throughout the dormitories. The wireless Internet service is subscribed on a pre-paid basis. People staying at the site may obtain a network access PIN by buying a pre-paid card. There are over 800 users accessing the network daily.

      Products used

      • Altai A8 Super WiFi Base Staion
      • Altai C1 Super WiFi CPE’s

      Competition: Standard AP

      Mining Wi-Fi Applications

      Altai SuperWiFi Enables Digital Mining – Quick Wireless Solution for Coalfield Applications


      In order to increase the productivity, safety and security of mining, staying abreast with the latest communication technology is the key to achieving these objectives.  The extreme environment of coalfields makes wireless connection an ideal solution for various applications since wireless can be deployed virtually anywhere.

      Operated by Sainik Mining and Allied Services Limited (“Sainik’), the open-pit mines in Jharkhand of India urgently required a high capacity wireless broadband network to provide internet connection for its site offices, RFID tracking application as well as wireless video surveillance system.

      Reliable and always available connectivity is crucial in the coalfield because when a data network shuts down or becomes unavailable, the entire operation will be suspended. Compared to wired solutions, wireless devices are easier to be replaced in the event of failure.

      Owing to the rugged, dusty and ever changing landscape of the coalfield, Altai’s C1n series was selected to provide point-to-point wireless connection. With a total area of over 6 sq. km, the entire coalfield is fully covered by Altai SuperWiFi.

      The Challenge

      • Dusty, rugged and ever changing landscape with limited sites for installation
      • Lack of Ethernet & Internet backbone
      • Network redundancy is required
      • The network must be expandable and easy to deploy
      • Extending live CCTV feeds from Control Rooms to ‘Coalfields WAN’ over Internet in phases

      The Solution

      In order to provide full outdoor WiFi coverage, C1n and C1an are Mining wifi 2mounted on towers to provide internet connection for RFID vehicle tracking application and central control room.

      Operating on 5GHz channels, the C1xan’s are installed on different towers and rooftops of onsite offices to provide up to 6km point-to-point wireless connection for the video surveillance system. All the wireless CCTV cameras are connected to the central control room and the cameras are installed in strategic locations to avoid blind spots. Since the wireless network must be always available, another pair of C1xan are connected to provide network redundancy.

      The Result

      With high gain smart antennas and advanced signal processing algorithms, the Altai C1n series is able to provide long range coverage with high throughput. Owing to the ever changing landscape of open-pit mines, the compact and portable design of the C1n series enables the network operator to expand its WiFi network easily

      The Altai Super Wi-Fi network is able to withstand the harsh environment of a coalfield to provide full network coverage for internet access, RFID vehicle tracking application and wireless video surveillance system.


      We found Altai point-point & point-multipoint radios a stable solution for Wireless CCTV backhaul, providing stable and sufficient bandwidth for IP CCTV Surveillance for real-time viewing. These Altai radios provide very high throughput in point-point, point-multipoint or daisy-chain topologies without impairing real-time viewing experience of high grade megapixel CCTV cameras.

      PowertecWifi have trained operatives throughout Australia that can plan and assist you to set up a similar quick wireless solution for your mining application.

      For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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