July 10, 2023
Schulich capstone team impresses industry partner with mobile network solution
When a natural disaster unfolds in front of our eyes, it’s become natural for many to reach into our pocket to grab our cellphone. Whether it’s to call loved ones, or to share content on social media channels, our mobile devices have become critical resources for a variety of reasons.
Not only are telecommunications companies facing a massive surge in users, but also, in some cases, their infrastructure can become compromised in a disaster, putting life-saving messaging and voice services at risk.
A team of Schulich School of Engineering students tried to tackle the issue during their capstone project that was showcased during the 2023 Engineering Design Fair. But not only were they able to showcase the project at the University of Calgary, they also caught the attention of one of those companies: Telus Communications.
Building the system
The team of six — Chloe Bouchard; Andres Caicedo, BSc (Eng)’23; Maram Elsayed, BSc (Eng)’23; Alexandra Glodzinski, BSC (Eng)’23; Mathew Pelletier, BSc (Eng)’16; and August Sosick, BComm’23, BSC (Eng)’23 — started working on the project during the summer of 2022, spending eight months developing a solution to the bandwidth challenge.
“Our solution was geared towards managing the bandwidth of individual cellphones streaming video content on Telus’s LTE network,” Sosick says. “Our goal was to reduce congestion on different cell towers in their network.”
Working under the guidance of academic adviser Dr. Steve Drew, PhD, the team hoped to create a flexible, adaptable system that wouldn’t require a physical hardware upgrade.
“We were looking to develop a software-based solution, as opposed to a conventional hardware-based solution,” says Caicedo. “To this end, we developed a solution that could adapt in real time to network conditions, changing the bandwidth on a cellphone-by-cellphone basis, as needed.”
Dressed to impress
Drew says he has a friend who works at Telus, who had reached out looking for a solution to prevent the Radio Access Networks and core network from being congested in the event of a sudden surge of users, or in the event of degraded performance due to natural disasters.
Following the Engineering Design Fair in April, the company invited the students to make a presentation at the Telus Sky building in downtown Calgary.
“We were very impressed with the capstone team,” says Telus principal technology architect Rainer Iraschko. “They worked together as a cohesive unit with a clear delineation of responsibilities that made them effective and efficient.”
He applauded the team for keeping the company updated on their progress, as well as seeking guidance and feedback on a regular basis.
“Getting the team to solve a real-world problem was both rewarding and motivating for both Telus and the students,” Iraschko says. “Not only did it identify a potential solution Telus could implement, it helped prepare the students for their professional careers by exposing them to the challenges, expectations, and opportunities they will face in the workforce.”
The students, several of whom graduated in the spring, appreciated the opportunity to put their technical and presentation skills to the test.
“Being able to make that presentation was a highlight of our project,” Pelletier says.
“It was inspiring to see how our university can make a difference in the industry.”
The power of collaboration
Being able to apply their learnings in an industry setting and hopefully solve a major communications problem is what team members say they valued the most.
Bouchard and Glodzinski agree it was an unparalleled experience that showcases the power of collaboration and creativity between industry and academia.
The team also believes their solution could also be used for internet service providers as well as heavy-network providers like YouTube or data centres.
“This project gave us a unique opportunity to understand and tackle an industry-specific problem,” says Elsayed. “It was a journey of continuous learning, and the results were rewarding.”