Vale is starting to implement, in partnership with Vivo, an unprecedented technology infrastructure to extend the reach of the 4G internet signal along the Carajás railroad, which connects the states of Maranhão and Pará, covering 28 cities in Brazil.
The initiative includes the installation of 49 new telephone towers and the activation of the signal on another 27 towers already installed, as well as the acquisition and installation of new equipment. The investment, worth around 240 million reais (US$50 million), should be completed by 2025 and will benefit communities close to the railroad and the railroad operation, as well as improving connectivity on the passenger train.
“This initiative is in line with our commitment to invest in projects of shared value with society. It meets not only Vale’s needs – modernizing the technology used to exchange data during the movement of trains – but also those of the communities, with the provision of a 4G signal along the entire route of the Carajás Railroad, and also the users of the Passenger Train, improving connectivity during the journey,” said Vale CEO Eduardo Bartolomeo.
“Our private network project plays a leading role in the materialization of initiatives that accelerate industrial digitalization, leveraging technologies such as IoT, big data, artificial intelligence and analytics within the operation, transforming data into intelligence, ensuring greater safety, cost reduction and efficiency gains,” added Alex Salgado, VP of Business at Vivo.
“And in addition to technological advances within Vale’s railroad operation, the companies will go further and share with the population the benefits of excellent connectivity in all the municipalities close to the railroad.”
More security and efficiency for the railroad
The new 4G-based private network infrastructure will bring more security and efficiency to the operation of the Carajás railroad, which is already considered the safest railroad in Brazil by the National Land Transport Agency (ANTT). All communication on the railroad will be changed from analog to digital, speeding up access to data generated by the trains and making it possible to implement even more innovative systems in the future.
The railroad will have real-time video transmission, giving the driver greater visibility of what is happening on all sections of the track. Information generated by telemetry on the train’s performance will also be available in real time along the entire length of the railroad. In addition, cell phone communication between employees will be more stable.
The investment in the railroad is part of an initiative started in 2019, when Vale signed the first contract with Vivo to install a private 4G network in its operations. “Since 2019, this network has already been deployed in Carajás, where it enables the operation of 22 pieces of autonomous equipment, including haul trucks and drilling rigs, and in Itabira, where it supports dam monitoring,” explained CTO Paulo Pires.
Shared value with communities
A significant social impact of this technology project is the provision of free internet access points along the railroad, in high-traffic locations such as hospitals, schools and community centers. Vale’s teams have already started dialoguing with leaders and representatives of public authorities to determine which locations will benefit. There will be around 280 access points.
In addition, by the end of 2024, all 15 passenger stations along the Carajás Railroad will have a free internet signal for users. In the first phase, five stations will be prioritized: São Luís Vitória do Mearim, Santa Inês, Açailândia, Marabá and Parauapebas.
“Since the project was conceived, we have combined the need to modernize the railroad’s communications with meeting a legitimate demand from the communities, which is to have greater access to digital telephony in the region. It’s a strong example of how we’ve incorporated our commitment to communities into our strategy,” said Rail Operations Director João Júnior.