Students do the Telkom Centres of Excellence proud

September 30th, 2014, Published in Articles: EngineerIT


After the plenaries and vendors speaking about how they will solve the future of telecommunications,  the real Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC)  started with presentations of papers and work in progress at the Telkom Centres of Excellence (CoEs).  Not that the plenaries are unimportant –  they are, as it is that section of the conference where we learn what is and will be on offer in the telecoms market.  It is however refreshing to listen to the young minds and how they, through their studies and projects, are pointing to the next killer application or system or ….

In my opinion it is a great pity that many of the delegates do not stay for that part of the conference, not to just learn about what is being done  at the Telkom Centres of Excellence but also to give students their support by not only funding the work but also showing their personal interest.

As the conference chairman, Alphonzo Samuels recently saidAn important aspect of SATNAC is participation by students working on their masters and PhDs  at the Telkom CoEs.  The initiative was launched in 1997 with the objective of sparking the production of a new generation of highly skilled engineers, computer scientists and related professionals. Telkom, industry partners and tertiary education institutions under the Technology and Human Resource for Industry Programme (THRIP) offer young graduates the opportunity to conduct research in world class environments. There are currently 16 CoEs and 20 industry partners.“

This year 91 student papers were presented, of which 20 were work-in-progress papers; and 30 poster presentations were on display.

The best paper winner came North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, School of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering and was presented by Samuel van Loggerenberg entitled “Optimal passive optical network planning under demand uncertainty”. The second and third places were awarded respectively to Joyce Mwangama, University of Cape Town  for her paper “Implementation of EPC mobile networks using NFV and SDN” and Olukayode Oki, University of Zululand for his paper “Comparison of energy-based leader selection algorithms in wireless mesh networks”.

Graeme Allan, acting managing executive for network infrastructure provisioning, Telkom congratulates Samuel van Loggerenberg.

The winning paper deals with a very topical subject, fibre to the home. As a result of ever-increasing demand for access level bandwidth, long deployment cycles and the popularisation of more economically viable point-to-multipoint (P2MP) networks, service providers are moving to extensively future-proof fibre technologies to connect consumers. Of these, the passive optical network (PON) is the most prevalent.

Although the optimal planning of these networks has been studied by a number of authors recently, the typical situation where consumer demand is uncertain has yet to be addressed. By including stochastic demand in an integer linear program (ILP) model through the use of 2-stage stochastic programming, this can be accounted for.

In this paper, a discrete approach is followed, optimising the model with the addition of consumer demand scenarios using real-world geographic information system (GIS) data. Results show a definitive decrease in deployment cost when any of the scenarios realise, especially when splitter capacity is restrictive.

In this paper, demand uncertainty was incorporated in a model of the PON planning problem through the use of  a discrete 2-stage stochastic programming approach. This ensures that a finite number of scenarios can be calculated to predict consumer demand, allowing for splitter over-utilisation and optimal duct planning.

To the best of the author and his colleagues’ knowledge, this type of formulation has not been previously published, likely due to the increased complexity that is inevitable when modelling stochastic parameters.

Using a small dataset, it was evident that the gains from this approach are very much dependent on the splitter capacity, with tighter restrictions allowing for more savings, up to 13%. When re-optimising the second phase deployment, gains of up to 4% were demonstrated. These figures are heavily dependent on the data, with larger datasets expected to show much larger savings due to the increased number of possible fibre paths.

The advantage of this approach stems from the fact that scenarios are independent, ensuring that excess capacity on splitters are kept to a minimum and ducts are shared as much as possible across all scenarios.

All the papers presented by students at SATNAC 2014 are available on

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