Fortescue Metals Group

Fortescue Metals Group finalises the commissioning of the companywide digital radio technology solution with the completion of their heavy haul railway Damm TetraFlex® network.


Fortescue’s railway was the first large-scale railway development undertaken in the Pilbara in more than 40 years. The rail fleet will compromise 45 locomotives, 3,244 ore wagons, 30 fuel tanker wagons, 37 ballast wagons, 10 side dump cars, 19 rail carrying cars and eight compressor cars. The radio network covers all vehicles, rail and road, handhelds and desktop radios.

Fortescue had first adopted TETRA radio as a companywide communications standard after the successful roll out of TetraFlex® at their mine sites and port facilities. Although GSMR was heavily considered, heavy rail decision to continue with TETRA was due to its now proven reliability and the technologies ability to successfully address critical concurrent voice and data communications.

The success of the TETRA rail project has proven to Fortescue that the standards approach to their voice and data communications across the business units was a step in the right direction, and that the ability to carry GPS (location) data and other forms of data over the network without impacting on voice channel availability was the right decision.

The Railways spans some 300km from Port Hedland to Christmas Creek Mine and 130km to Solomon Mine via a spurline. There are 25 nodes servicing the rail corridor alone and many of these sites are serviced by solar power, where the power efficiency of the Damm TetraFlex® technology is proving itself to be highly effective. All of these Rail sites have been fitted with the high capacity, flexible TetraFlex® scalable Indoor Base Stations. Critical communications are ensured with network coverage of over 99% for portables and 100% for mobiles along the rail corridor.

FMG TETRA Coverage v1

The entire TETRA radio network roll out currently comprises more than 40 Damm TetraFlex® nodes and over 5,700 Sepura terminals, unifying the communications platform to allow seamless operations across all facets of the business.

The system was designed around a network topology that ensured “no single point of failure” which was a perfect match for TetraFlex® and the use of its distributed architecture. Other similar rollouts utilising other technologies and topologies had been challenged in very similar environments, however the simple yet robust model of the TetraFlex® infrastructure allowed Fortescue the comfort in the knowledge that even a relatively serious network event will not result in a complete loss of communications. This is one of the most important aspects of the system design and was mandated by Fortescue due to the nature of their operations to ensure operational targets are consistently met and exceeded.

Patching the legacy analogue fleet of radios with Damm infrastructure and Sepura terminals was achieved seamlessly through the use of GMG Solutions Radio over IP gateway, Omnitronics IPR400’s and Damm’s open standard API. The use of multiple talk groups has greatly increased the efficiency and usability of the TETRA network, designed so it is scalable and adjustable as operational changes require.

Fortescue is now looking beyond just the voice capabilities of TetraFlex® and to continue the journey of innovation and data applications to simplify complex tasks over their DAMM TETRA system.