Reaching for the stars (literally)

Satellites are probably not one of the first things that spring to mind when one talks about Dubai.  The Emirate is better known for its landmark skyline, glamourous hotels, shopping malls and generous hospitality.  But, interestingly enough, the UAE has quietly transformed into a hub for space and satellite innovation.

Late last year, HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Makhtoum took to Twitter to announce the UAE’s bold and ambitious plans for Khalifa-sat which is to be 100%  manfuctured and built in the Emirates by UAE engineers.  This is a huge feat considering the satellite industry is a highly complex and technically advanced sector limited to specific nations. Satellite manufacturers often have to recruit specialist space and satellite engineers globally as it is still a challenge to find homegrown talent to support such complex engineering projects.  As a UAE National myself and a satellite industry professional, I can say that this marks a very proud moment for my nation.

The Emirates’ roots in the satellite and space industry run a lot deeper than many realize. The UAE is actually home to three homegrown satellite operators, including Dubai-sat, YahSat and Thuraya.

The Thuraya story
Founded in 1997, Thuraya started as an innovative project by the UAE’s leading telecom operator, Etisalat. Etisalat recognized that there would always be parts of the the world which would never have terrestrial coverage. Either, there wasn’t a business case to justify the extension of the network, or it was physically not possible to deploy networks in mountain regions or at sea. There was also the problem of networks failing during times of natural or man-made disasters. This made having a blanket coverage satellite-ased back-up option critical. And that’s how Thuraya was born!

Thuraya - 2 was successfully launched in 2003

Thuraya is one of only four mobile satellite operators in the world. We are the market leader within our footprint coverage that spans Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Middle East. Early on, Thuraya developed our reputation for innovation and a high-level of service quality. Our position as an industry innovator is continued with the introduction of the world’s first and only satellite adaptor for the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy smartphones. Dubbed the Thuraya SatSleeve, the device is clever and easy to use, making mobile satellite technology easy for consumers to adopt. This is the first time mobile satellite technology has gone mainstream and we are very proud to be a driving force behind this.

The satellite industry is a very well established, traditional sector. However, it lacks the intensity of innovation which the consumer telecoms industry has experienced with the advent of 3G, LTE and other new technolgies. Despite this, we believe that we have a strong opportunity to shake up our sector and make a difference in our customers’ lives. It may seem like a bold statement, but our products and services can make the difference between life and death. We connect people and we take this responsibility very seriously.

Thuraya - 3

Our people, the backbone of success
Perhaps our most important asset is not our satellites, but the talented, committed satellite professionals who are responsible for ensuring our satellites fly and operate smoothly. It is also through their creativity and ability to disrupt satellite technology, that has led Thuraya to the forefront of our industry.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I would say that it takes a strong nation to build a satellite industry. No other country in the world can claim to be home to three successful satellite operators.  The support and and commitment of the UAE government has made all this possible. I, for one, am very grateful for the exciting and challenging career I have. Being based in the UAE also means having a front row seat in these exciting times.  This is only the start of the UAE’s satellite and space adventure.

Jassem Nasser
Vice President Strategy & Business Development

Thuraya Telecommunications Company

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