British Gypsum deploys Icom’s IP Advanced Radio system in UK mine

Leversedge Telecom replaced the existing communications system at British Gypsum’s East Leake mine with Icom’s Wi-Fi IP radio system, which had the advantage of providing a scalable licence-free communication system using the existing WLAN

British Gypsum deploys Icom’s IP Advanced Radio system in UK mine

One of the most demanding working environments in the UK is now benefiting from a new Icom IP Advanced Radio system installed by two-way radio provider Leversedge Telecom.

British Gypsum, the UK’s leading manufacturer of plaster, plasterboard and ceiling solutions, is the latest organisation to adopt Icom’s IP advanced radio technology. Such has been the success of the system, it is now being rolled out in British Gypsum’s five other mines throughout the UK.

The initial enquiry came from Simon Mills, mines planning engineer of British Gypsum for the East Leake mine in Leicestershire, which has a mining capacity of 500,000 tonnes per annum.

After discussions about the company’s requirements, Icom UK IP partner Leversedge Telecom visited the East Leake mine with engineers from Icom. Icom’s IP radio system was trialled using the mine’s existing WLAN network and even though it had to cover 8km of tunnels, it gave 100% coverage.

Health & Safety
The site now uses a full IP radio system, which operates on the mine’s current wireless LAN (WLAN). The system utilises a network controller and 50 IP100H remote communicators/handsets. The radios not only provide secure conversation, but also contribute to the company’s health and safety objectives.

Due to the nature of work at the face of the mine, British Gypsum also required a conventional digital radio solution. With the extended coverage and the face of the mine always moving, they opted for a rugged digital handportable.

Icom UK and Leversedge Telecom provided a rapidly deployable repeater housed in a peli case to bridge the communication technologies. This included an IC-FR6100 UHF digital repeater and IC-F4102D Digital UHF handportables.

British Gypsum’s Mills says: ‘We had a wide area to cover and needed to maintain communication coverage with all employees for operational and health and safety reasons. With people driving vehicles underground, it’s really important that clear, regular and audible communication takes place.

‘Suitable updates were no longer being provided for our existing system, and we could not support it. We flagged the issue as a potential future risk to the safety of our people – our primary concern. The options were to either replace it with a full radio system with repeaters and leaky feeders with large capital outlay or try something new that could bolt onto a system that we already had in place.’

Comms options
Mills continues: ‘We initially looked at analogue and digital radio systems, which would give us two channels, but this new system gave us several advantages such as the multiple simultaneous calls, which were a major advantage. The ability to track people was a major consideration because we have a duty under health & safety law to have good communications in the event of an emergency.

‘The idea is that everyone has to have a radio. The radios are used by all those who enter the mine including miners and contractors, and are used to keep the mine operators safe in its day-to-day operations’.

As to the performance of the scheme, Mills observes: ‘Battery life is brilliant and the handsets are robust. The clarity of the call is first class, especially over the distance that it covers underground. Essentially, the radio system has done everything we asked of it and we are very pleased.’

Richard Jaworski, sales director of Leversedge Telecom, said: ‘Leversedge Telecom Services has been providing two-way radios and accessories to British Gypsum at East Leake for more than 20 years. When we were asked to help with providing recommendations for a replacement for the old analogue radio system we were pleased to consider the options available.

‘Consulting with staff on site, it was clear that the most cost-effective and efficient system for this demanding environment was the Icom IP Wi-Fi radio system. Deployment of the system was straightforward, as we were able to utilise the existing fibre optic network and Wi-Fi access points installed within the mine.’

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