Tuesday, May 28, 2024

USAID opens PH-based O-RAN Academy to upskill regional workforce

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Wednesday, June 29, launched its Philippine-based Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) Academy which will train professionals in the Philippines and the whole Indo-Pacific region on the new technology.

The RAN is the last mile connection in mobile networks that allows devices to link to the Internet and other services. When sourcing RAN subcomponents, however, telecom operators can traditionally choose only one provider who offers proprietary software and hardware solutions.

O-RAN technology, on the other hand, aims to enable interoperability between all hardware and software components and ultimately, prevent telecom operators from being locked-in with a single vendor. By allowing more competition, O-RAN is anticipated to lower access costs and accelerate innovation as operators build the best solutions from a number of suppliers.

Bret Campbell, acting deputy mission director for the USAID in the Philippines, said: “This is particularly well-suited for the Philippines and the entire Indo-Pacific region because deciding to deploy it now will make these networks ready for all of the exciting innovations that are just around the corner, including the Internet of Things and 6G.”

The technology is expected to grow exponentially and take over 10% of the global RAN market by 2025, according to research firm Dell’Oro Group. Current actions taken by telecom operators across Asia already hint at this growth. Mobile operators in Japan and India are deploying the technology and Indonesian and Singaporean ones are conducting trials. Philippine companies are moving more cautiously, but have conducted research in preparation for trials.

The Asian O-RAN Academy aims to further hasten this technology’s adoption across the whole region by training engineers in the skillsets necessary to test and deploy O-RAN networks. While established in the Philippines, the academy is supported by a decentralized network of teaching institutions with O-RAN certified instructors that will offer academic credits and professional continuing education for the whole Indo-Pacific region.

The academy’s courses will include topics such as an introduction into O-RAN, O-RAN architecture, O-RAN security risks, the value chain, and policy considerations. The academy will also be offering sponsored events, access to interoperability laboratories, and certifications that can be earned throughout the courses.

DICT undersecretary Denis Villorente stated, as he closed the launch, that “Open RAN standards are not widely adopted at the moment, but the establishment of an institution such as the Asian Open RAN Academy in the country to address the skills gap in the area would spark the creation of a workforce that is digitally fluent in the solution design, development, and deployment of open and disaggregated network solutions.”

The Asian O-RAN Academy was funded by USAID as part of the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy and has more than 100 stakeholders from the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia Korea, the United States, and other nations contributed to its formation. The academy aims to be institutionalized in 2023.

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