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US, PH step closer to launching first Open RAN Laboratory in Manila

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MANILA — On June 4, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Assistant Administrator for Asia Michael Schiffer met with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the University of the Philippines-Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute (UP-EEEI) to finalize discussions on establishing the country’s first Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) Lab at UP Diliman.

In his meeting with DICT Assistant Secretary Philip Varilla and UP-EEEI Deputy Director Jaybie de Guzman, Assistant Administrator Schiffer discussed how the Lab, which will be housed at UP-EEEI, will provide hands-on training to current and aspiring local engineers and 5G professionals on how to design, build, test, and operate open networks.

“Open RAN networks in the United States have proven to be agile, rapidly deployable, and cost-efficient,” said Assistant Administrator Schiffer.  “We want the Philippines to benefit from the same robust and secure network.  The Open RAN Lab at UP Diliman will help develop talent to work on the Philippines’ own open network.”

Open RAN is a new approach to network architecture that opens up the telecommunications network, allowing mobile network operators to choose the best products and solutions from a variety of vendors.  This approach can help mobile network operators to advance security, foster greater innovation and competition, lower costs, and facilitate 5G deployment.

“DICT welcomes innovations like Open RAN to help in bridging the divide.  On our end, we commit to create a supportive policy and regulatory environment that will pave the way for efficient deployment of Open RAN technology,” said Assistant Secretary Varilla.  “Advanced technologies like this will empower communities, foster economic growth, and position the Philippines at the forefront of digital innovation.”

“We are proud to host the Open RAN Lab at UP.  This Lab will serve as a hub for cutting-edge research and development, training the next generation of experts who will lead the digital transformation of our country.  It will not only enhance our academic and research capabilities but also demonstrate our dedication to contributing to the national effort of closing the digital gap and ensuring that all Filipinos have access to high-speed internet,” said Deputy Director De Guzman.

In May 2023, U.S. President Joe Biden announced USAID support for establishing an Open RAN Lab in Manila to advance the Philippines’ 5G rollout, strengthen its innovation economy, and provide digital opportunities to Philippine workers.  The Open RAN Lab is being developed through USAID’s five-year Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON) project, aimed at promoting economic growth through better internet in the Philippines.

Assistant Administrator Schiffer also traveled to Laoag June 3, becoming the first U.S. official from Washington to visit the Ilocos Region in at least a decade.  He met with Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Manotoc and Laoag City Mayor Michael Keon to discuss ongoing development projects in the province and explore new opportunities.  In Manila, Assistant Administrator Schiffer also delivered remarks at The Asia Clean Energy Forum, highlighting the importance of expanding renewable energy.|

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