From lab to deployment: How cutting-edge research labs are stimulating innovation

Visits to innovation and interoperability labs located in universities that have cutting-edge research on 5G, wireless technologies, and Open RAN were part of the recent US Study tour that was organized by stakeholders of the Asia Open RAN Academy. This particular leg of the study tour was especially significant to the initiative to establish the AORA Interoperability Lab in the Philippines, which is expected to have a network of labs that will be located in universities, telecom research labs, and government research institutions.

UP Electrical and Electronics Engineering (UP-EEEI) Assistant Professor and AORA Board Member Dr. Jaybie De Guzman, who was part of the study tour, shares that universities serve as a neutral avenue for collaboration among academics, industry, and government. Moreover, universities are more inclined to explore and investigate novel approaches, which are not the focus of industry-focused research, but are complementary to each other. He says, “hence, having an interoperability laboratory in our local universities allows us to create that local neutral avenue for collaboration, research, and instruction which leads to local innovation but with a global impact.”

Dr. De Guzman, first standing from left, with fellow AORA delegates and members from IDG.

The university’s ongoing projects demonstrate its commitment to advancing telecommunications infrastructure and training the next generation of engineers and designers.

1. What is the role of universities in the Open RAN ecosystem? Why is an interoperability lab in a university important to have? What research activities are expected to be done in these labs?

For the case of UP, we will be leveraging the open RAN interoperability laboratory that will be hosted at UP EEEI to enhance EEEI’s instruction and research activities in telecommunications, wireless networks, and software engineering. Specifically, we are looking into conducting research projects addressing the following: (1) sustainable and affordable mobile connectivity, (2) locally contextualized wireless channel modeling for cellular network coverage analysis, planning and optimization, and (3) connectivity solutions using open and software-defined technologies.

2. What important learning did you get from visiting the US universities? How can we apply it in the Philippine context?

The key factor that enables US universities to be an avenue for collaboration, and research is the innovation ecosystem that is supported by the industry and government. Of course, the tech industry has had a great impact in sustaining this innovation ecosystem, e.g. the Silicon Valley, the NC Research Triangle, and the NTIA supported ACCoRD consortium.

To emulate that ecosystem, in my opinion, it is paramount that we focus on delivering a high value workforce, i.e., postgraduate- and research-trained experts. These research-trained graduates will not only contribute to the academic workforce but also to the industry and allow them to create high value output; hence, spurring that innovation ecosystem. Once a critical mass of research-trained graduates is reached, the innovation ecosystem can now be sustained locally.

This press release is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government