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CSIR hosts workshop on software-defined networking and network function virtualisation impacting 5G

Publication Date: 
Monday, December 10, 2018

The CSIR and the IEEE ComSoc hosted a workshop, including an expert panel, on how software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) will impact the development of 5G. The aim of the session was to bring together expert engineers and researchers from the South African industry and academia who work in the telecommunications field.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Communications Society (IEEE ComSoc) hosted a workshop, including an expert panel, on how software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) will impact the development of 5G. The aim of the session was to bring together expert engineers and researchers from the South African industry and academia who work in the telecommunications field.

The workshop was held at the CSIR Meraka Institute. It was attended by approximately 40 delegates from industry, academia and government, comprising researchers and engineers from companies such as Telkom SA, Vodacom SA, MTN SA, Parallel Wireless, to name a few; academia, students, as well as government institutions, including the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa.

During his opening remarks, the IEEE South Africa Section Chair, Dr Albert Lysko, gave a brief history of the IEEE and communications in South Africa, then went on to talk about 5G-related offerings from the IEEE and other membership benefits.

Different speakers from industry and academia gave presentations. In his IEEE ComSoc Distinguished Lecture, Dr Ashutosh Dutta discussed the security opportunities and challenges created by SDN and NFV in the development of 5G. He later gave another lecture on the ongoing 5G activities within the IEEE Future Networks Initiative.

Dr van der Bergh from MTN SA covered the drivers and challenges of telco 'cloudification' from the perspective of communications service providers towards 5G networks. In addition to this he focussed on human resource challenges and driving the mind shift for the new technology adoption.

Dr Joyce Mwangama discussed SDN and NFV-related research at the University of Cape Town towards 5G. She highlighted the envisaged skills challenge in adoption of SDN/NFV organisation and how University of Cape Town is providing courses at undergraduate level to address this challenge.

Sabelo Dlamini provided an overview of the development of a 5G test bed by the CSIR to support research and development in leveraging SDN and NFV as the key stepping stones to the 5G era in emerging markets. In this he highlighted edge computing and network slicing as possible technologies to help bridge the digital divide.

George Debbo, the deputy President of SAIEE who also runs his own telecommunications consulting company, discussed how to develop a business case for evolving to software-centric networks in emerging markets. Debbo outlined region-specific challenges facing the adoption of SDN and NFV and those faced by operators in the region.

The presentations and question-and-answer sessions were followed by expert panel discussions, focussed on the deliberations around practical, immediate and long-term implications of SDN and NFV in the 5G context for South African and other developing markets, as well as related research needed to address the associated challenges.

In the workshop it was concluded that migration to SDN and artificial intelligence (AI) driven process for 5G technologies will not only be a technical solution, but will also require active human participation and the expected return will not be short term but long term.

The event’s co-organisers, Sabelo Dlamini and Albert Lysko, would like to express their gratitude to the sponsors – the University of Pretoria, CSIR Meraka Institute, IEEE South Africa and ComSoc Chapter.