A Swift answer to a more comfortable FIFO lifestyle

BHP's Warrawandu village. Image: Swift Networks

There is nothing more satisfying for Swift Networks than making the fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) arrangement more comfortable for workers at mine site villages.

The telecommunications and content solutions provider has become a leader in this space for the mining industry, with the likes of Rio Tinto, BHP and Roy Hill engaging the company to fitout its FIFO villages with the latest technologies.

One of the Perth-based company’s most recent contract wins was with Rio at the Hope Downs village in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

For Rio, Swift is upgrading and providing entertainment and communications facilities to the Hope Downs 1 village, which includes 1064 residences in the remote region.

The contract sees Swift refit and augment Rio’s existing TV system with new fibre optic cabling, while also providing the village with a new gigabit passive optical network and internet user management solution.

Rio’s latest contract with Swift, signed during June, is the just another example of a mining company prioritising its staff’s entertainment, and their ability to stay informed and in contact with family and friends while working away.

Mining companies increasingly understand that this is a key part of building a happy, healthy and productive workforce, according to Swift.

“Having workers in such remote locations away from family and friends it is important that they feel comfortable and have that home away from home,” Swift general manager Gavin Burt told Australian Mining.

“We play a little part in that by providing the entertainment and information, as well as the ability for them to connect with family and friends through our networking capabilities.”

“Focus on their workers’ physical and mental wellbeing is very much on the agenda.”

Working with Rio, Swift has engineered a fit-for-purpose solution considerate of the client’s requirements in the harsh Pilbara environment.

Swift will design and construct a network platform that will deliver free-to-air TV, pay TV, an in-room telephone service and in-room Wi-Fi internet to all 1064 rooms at the Hope Downs 1 village.

The contract adds to previous infrastructure works Swift has delivered for Rio at the Jerriwah and Amrun villages in WA and Queensland, respectively.

As technology evolves, so do the demands from mining companies for the facilities at their FIFO villages. For Swift, it is not only a priority to keep up with the latest technologies, but to also be ahead of the curve in their ability to offer them to resources companies.

“Technology continues to evolve and we have a research and development team that continues to evolve our product to ensure that we are not just meeting the market, but also ahead of the market,” Burt said.

“So we continue to work with our clients on what solutions need to look like for residents and workers, and particularly in the resource sector.

“That’s an ongoing conversation we have with the client, particularly being in a remote environment – the bandwidth that is possible – each camp is at different stages, in regards to their infrastructure, but we can meet any need, depending on the infrastructure out there.”

A Rio Tinto village. Image: Swift Networks


The remoteness of the mining camps presents the biggest challenge for Swift in delivering its projects.

In mineral-rich regions, such as the Pilbara and North Queensland, weather conditions also provide a key challenge for the company to contend with.

“You are talking about equipment that needs to hold up to some pretty high temperatures,” Burt explained.

“Our technology has held up for a number of years now, long term and relatively fault free. I think that holds us in good stead reputational wise with these clients.”

The next step for Swift and its mining clients is to add bring-you-own-device (BYOD) capabilities to FIFO villages around the country to further enhance worker connectivity.

“We are working with clients on that potential solution in a remote environment – that has its own challenges,” Burt said.

“If you think of a metro environment that is something that people have expectations for so being able to do that in a remote environment is something we have been working on.”

As Swift aims to build capabilities such as BYOD, it is hopeful these developments will result in a larger market share of FIFO villages around the country. The company currently estimates that there are around 110,000 rooms at mining villages in the country, with it providing content to about 30,000 of them.

Collaboration with other communications companies and industry bodies will help Swift achieve this. The company already has strong relationships with Foxtel and Beyond Blue, for example, which make it possible for Swift to provide the broad service of its business.

While mining continues to be Swift’s primary industry of work, the company is also expanding further into other sectors, including oil and gas, government, hospitality, aged care and retirement villages.

Earlier this year in the oil and gas industry, Swift won a contract to supply a broad suite of its communications services to the INPEX-operated Ichthys LNG project offshore WA. The company also recognises Chevron as one of its major clients.

This article also appears in the August edition of Australian Mining.

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