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Choosing the right provider: The questions to ask and pitfalls to avoid when in need of satellite communication for mining projects

Choosing the right provider: The questions to ask and pitfalls to avoid when in need of satellite communication for mining projects

Both geo-remote connectivity and critical connectivity are important considerations within mining and supporting organisations. However, the role they play varies not only from project to project but also throughout each part of the project lifecycle.

With large and small projects alike connectivity can often become an afterthought and get lost within the other elements to consider and plan. Whilst solutions can be deployed quickly, the reality is, that with a little bit of planning and forward thinking, you could have had a more cost-effective, relevant, and flexible solution in place.

“There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to mining and related projects, understanding how they all work together and evolve over time is challenging. But, if you identify a partner who understands this, and caters to it, you are likely to have a more positive connectivity experience,” says David Spencer, Western Australia Sales Manager at Orion.

Despite the arrival of COVID-19, the outlook for mining is positive, with reports predicting the industry will recover at an annualised 2.8% over the five years through 2024-25 . And with many projects now in the planning phase, you need to ensure you have a provider who can deliver a solution based on your needs.

The questions you should be asking

According to David, there are several questions that prospective providers should ask when scoping any projects. These include:

  • When do you need the connection? When looking at your solution, it is important to discuss implementation timings as well as the technology. The more notice you can give to a provider, the more time they will have to consider and plan a best fit solution. This is important as it can have a knock on effect in terms of cost efficiency.
  • How important is the connection? A good provider will want to know how the link is going to be used. Will it be your primary connection, or part of your disaster recovery plan? What consequences do you face in the event of downtime and have you considered how to mitigate these?
  • What about bandwidth? The lifecycle of a mining project tends to see usage go up and down. A good provider will know this and should offer a solution that can adapt to these changes. Failure to offer this kind of flexibility can result in significant cost increases, so be wary of any rigid proposals.

In addition to the questions you should expect to be asked, there are also a couple of questions you can pose in order to separate the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. For example, is the solution scalable to reflect your project lifecycle and how does the provider’s own infrastructure affect service delivery?  Do they own the solution and technology (e.g. the satellite) or are they reselling a third-party service? If the latter, how does this affect response and support times?

“It’s important to get a clear understanding of how your provider operates and how flexible their solutions are. Likewise, the more information you can give, the better the solution should be. If you feel like you are being offered a ‘one-size-fits-all’ service, it might be worth looking at other option,” adds David.

Pitfalls to avoid

  1. Don’t leave it till the last minute! The more notice you can provide, the more likely it will be that you end up with a cost-effective solution. If your timelines force you to move quickly, be sure to plan a review once things settle down. A good provider will allow you to tweak and adapt your solution to meet your needs.
  2. Set your budget based on your needs (not the other way around). Your satellite connectivity budget should be based on the bandwidth and hardware that you need. By trying to do this backwards, you can end up under investing in a solution that cannot cater to the requirements and will result in frustration, reduced productivity, and possibly having to go back to the drawing board anyway.
  3. Review your solutions regularly. Satellite communication is a rapidly changing industry. Remember you shouldn’t have to wait until your contract ends to review your costs. Your provider might have launched new technology that can offer an improved solution for you.
  4. Rigid, fixed price offerings resulting in overspending. Flexibility is integral in the mining industry, more so than most others. If you feel like you are being offered a rigid solution that can’t evolve with your project, that is a red flag!

Orion understands mining requirements

More than 50 percent of Orion’s current business is within the mining industry. As a company, Orion had more than 15 years providing connectivity to the industry. We understand the challenges, from ensuring hardware can survive the harsh environment and extreme weather, to scaling solutions as projects move from site exploration to permanent infrastructure.

“As well as being very focused on mining, we are constantly investing in and launching new technology with a view to improving our customers’ connectivity experience. We’ve recently announced the upgrade of our hub, the availability of SDWAN dual satellite solutions and the option to have NBN as a secondary satellite and are soon launching a Dynamic On-Demand Connectivity solution to give customers more control of their bandwidth usage,” notes David.

Orion’s focus on flexibility also means customers who aren’t sure of their bandwidth requirements can start small and scale up as needed. This approach can provide comfort to those who are concerned about overspending on unnecessary data.

Orion is one of only two infrastructure operators in Australia and New Zealand. This means we own the end-to-end infrastructure from the satellite to the earth station. From start to finish, every project we work on is delivered by Orion staff and products, resulting in a quick and seamless process.

To find out more about our solutions, and our experience working with mining and resources, contact David and the team at Orion today.

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Experience the Difference, call Orion on 1800 063 123 or email sales@orionsat.com.au