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Observability of bulk power transmission network by means of minimum number of phasor measurement units (PMUs), with the aid of the network topology, is a great challenge. This paper presents a novel equivalent integer linear programming method (EILPM) for the exhaustive search-based PMU placement. The state estimation implemented based on such a placement is completely linear, thereby eliminating drawbacks of the conventional SCADA-based state estimation. Additional constraints for observability preservation following single PMU or line outages can easily be implemented in the proposed EILPM. Furthermore, the limitation of communication channels is dealt with by translation of nonlinear terms into linear ones. Optimal PMU placement is carried out on the IEEE 118-bus test system in different scenarios. The comparison between obtained results of EILPM and those of other methods reveals optimality of the solutions. Moreover, the proposed method is successfully applied on the Iranian National Grid, which demonstrates it can effectively be employed for practical power networks.