Local advocates of Open RAN (radio access network) are pushing for the adoption of the technology in the Philippines to transform key industries such as telecommunications and healthcare.
Experts assert that the adoption of Open RAN standards offers substantial advantages to telecommunications networks, including enhanced interoperability, cost reduction for 5G infrastructure, and extended Internet connectivity to underserved regions.
Dr. Alvin Marcelo, a surgeon and informatics practitioner from the University of the Philippines, proposed an innovative use-case for Open RAN to revolutionize healthcare accessibility in remote and underserved areas of the Philippines.
By deploying Open RAN infrastructure and telemedicine, Marcelo envisions connecting isolated communities, optimizing patient transfers during emergencies, and integrating them into a larger healthcare network, fostering a healthier and more connected nation.
Beyond technological advancement, Open RAN’s accomplishments have far-reaching implications for the Philippines, its advocates said.
Compared to traditional telecom networks, they said deploying Open RAN is easier and less costly, especially in isolated areas, ensuring connectivity for all.
This connectivity, in turn, opens doors to market opportunities and essential government services, empowering the communities.
However, there is still much to achieve and Marcelo called on all to contribute to advancing Open RAN and bridging the skills gap, promoting innovation, and driving technology adoption in the Philippines.
The advocates said a strategic circle or committee comprising of representatives from the telecom sector, government, and the academe need to collaborate on setting goals and formulating policies necessary for successful implementation of Open RAN.
“Our aim is to create a comprehensive framework that goes beyond a mere work in progress and can be adopted for various applications, with healthcare being a prominent one. Additionally, we envision community telehealth efforts and plan to set up an interoperability lab in Manila, while also extending our focus to establish community labs in provinces, enabling locals to develop interoperable devices,” Marcelo said.
The potential benefits of Open RAN in the Philippines are numerous, they said. These include reducing Internet cost, enhancing connectivity in remote areas, and implementing portable community networks to facilitate communication between isolated islands and the mainland.
“We aim to ensure that several provinces reap the benefits of Open RAN technology, contributing to a more connected and technologically advanced nation,” said Maricor Akol, vice chairperson of Asia Open RAN Academy.
Open RAN is also expected to have a significant impact on shaping policies and guidelines in the ICT sector as the technology opens the door for multiple players, including a fourth telecom player.
As Open RAN gains traction, its backers said it will encourage operators to share towers, promoting device interoperability, and ultimately driving down the costs associated with deploying 5G networks.
This initiative got a boost lately when Asia Open RAN Academy, an alliance of academic, government, and industry stakeholders based in the Philippines, received funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Asia Open RAN Academy’s primary objective is to promote Open RAN and play a crucial role in transforming telecommunications and driving economic growth in the region.
Its branded curriculum offers comprehensive training programs for engineers and professionals, empowering the ICT workforce with the necessary skills. It has trained more than 6,000 network professionals and engineers.
The Philippines currently holds the 83rd position out of 140 countries in terms of mobile Internet performance, as reported by Ookla. Its download speed stands at 26.98 Mbps, which is below the global average of 42.92 Mbps.