Philippines, US to Open First Open RAN Lab in Manila

USAID Assistant Administrator Michael Schiffer (second from left) and USAID Philippines Acting Mission Director Rebekah Eubanks (left) meet with DICT Assistant Secretary Philip Varilla and UP-EEEI Deputy Director Jaybie de Guzman to strengthen the adoption and deployment of Open RAN, a critical network infrastructure that increases cybersecurity.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) have partnered with the University of the Philippines-Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute (UP-EEEI) to establish the Philippines’ first Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) Laboratory at UP Diliman.

Assistant Administrator for Asia Michael Schiffer of USAID met with DICT Assistant Secretary Philip Varilla and UP-EEEI Deputy Director Jaybie de Guzman on June 4 to finalize the establishment of the Open RAN Lab.

This facility aims to provide hands-on training for local engineers and 5G professionals, equipping them with the skills needed to design, build, test, and operate open network systems.

“Open RAN networks in the United States have proven to be agile, rapidly deployable, and cost-efficient,” Schiffer said.

“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 modern approach to network architecture that allows mobile network operators to select the best products and solutions from various vendors, promoting greater innovation, security, and cost-efficiency.

The technology is pivotal for advancing 5G deployment and enhancing the overall telecommunications landscape.

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

The Open RAN Lab will serve as a hub for cutting-edge research and development, training the next generation of experts to lead the country’s digital transformation.

“We are proud to host the Open RAN Lab at UP. This Lab will enhance our academic and research capabilities and demonstrate our dedication to closing the digital gap, ensuring all Filipinos have access to high-speed internet,” Deputy Director De Guzman remarked.

The establishment of the Open RAN Lab is part of USAID’s five-year Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON) project, which aims to promote economic growth through improved internet infrastructure in the Philippines.

The initiative was announced by U.S. President Joe Biden in May 2023 as part of efforts to advance the Philippines’ 5G rollout and strengthen its innovation economy.

During his visit to the Philippines, Assistant Administrator Schiffer also visited Laoag, meeting with Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Manotoc and Laoag City Mayor Michael Keon to discuss ongoing development projects and explore new opportunities.

In Manila, he delivered remarks at The Asia Clean Energy Forum, emphasizing the importance of expanding renewable energy.

The collaboration between USAID, DICT, and UP-EEEI represents a significant milestone in the Philippines’ journey towards digital transformation and underscores the commitment of both nations to fostering innovation and economic growth through advanced technology.

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