Thuraya Link issue 3
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At the Forefront of Mobile Satellite Innovation

Since taking on the newly created role as Thuraya’s Vice President of Innovation in September 2013, Randy Roberts has been involved in overseeing a range of product development and solutions engineering projects at Thuraya. A veteran with over 25 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, Randy is also responsible for managing the business intelligence team to drive continuous development and enhancement of Thuraya’s product lifecycle management process. He joined Thuraya from Siemens Enterprise Communications, where he was the Vice President of their Global Mobile Product Portfolio.


In this interview, Randy shares more about his strategic vision for spurring innovation within the company and looks ahead to the new innovative capabilities Thuraya can bring to the Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) sector.

Meeting communication needs in remote environments

On a personal note, I am greatly honored to head up Thuraya’s Innovation division, and I look forward to working closely with my colleagues, as well as our network of Service Partners, to expand the scope of our mobile satellite product portfolio. I intend to bring my past experience in the terrestrial mobile sector to Thuraya, and offer fresh perspectives on how we can accelerate product innovation.

Q: Taking on this new role at Thuraya, what are the key areas you will be focusing on in terms of spearheading the introduction of innovative solutions?
Roberts: An emerging trend is the end-user’s increased focus on applications and services like video. With customers demanding access to more data via their mobile devices, Thuraya will be putting more focus on expanding the capabilities of our data product lines.

Secondly, I believe there is a lot we can learn from the convergence of the MSS and terrestrial mobile sectors. From my background in terrestrial mobile, I hope to introduce some of these lessons to how we approach the market and enable end-users to access data applications more easily on our satellite equipment. The objective here is to take a closer look at how consumer behavior is evolving and impacting the way mobile devices are being utilized. We want to develop products that will allow customers to continue accessing the same kind of applications and services on their mobile devices, regardless of the network. For example, the end-user shouldn’t have to worry about the network they are using or what they need to do when moving from GSM coverage to Thuraya’s satellite network.

A third area of focus is expanding our engagement with partners. By collaborating with our Service Partners, hardware vendors and solution developers, we aim to develop an entire ecosystem that will respond quickly to the latest market trends and provide the specific solutions that our customers need.

Q: What in your view are the major technology trends that will shape how Thuraya approach the market?
An emerging trend is the end-user’s increased focus on applications and services like video. With customers demanding access to more data via their mobile devices, Thuraya will be putting more focus on expanding the capabilities of our data product lines.

We need to make sure that we are able to deliver the network coverage, bandwidth and high quality of service in order to keep pace with customer requirements. The Thuraya SatSleeve is a great example of a product innovation that addresses the specific needs of customers by enabling them to turn their iPhone into a satellite-enabled device. We then further evolved this disruptive product to meet consumer expectations for data services by releasing the data edition of the SatSleeve.

We are also exploring how we can leverage the heightened demand for data applications to develop the right MSS solutions to address the diverse needs of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, maritime operators and other industries that require reliable data access to boost operational efficiency. This will involve establishing a developer community that will add value by creating new applications and solutions that ride on top of our congestion-free network.

Q: Can you elaborate on how Thuraya can continue differentiating itself from the competition in terms of technology?
Roberts: I think Thuraya currently holds a distinct advantage in the MSS industry by being a dynamic and highly agile company that responds quickly to market needs. We pride ourselves in being able to thoroughly understand the needs of customers, and put a lot of focus on getting to market faster with innovative solutions that make a difference to their business.

We also differentiate ourselves in the support we are able to provide our Service Partners, coming up with many unique ways of working together with them. Our partnership with SoftBank Mobile in Japan illustrates Thuraya’s ability to provide comprehensive solutions and attractive pricing plans to address evolving market requirements around the world. We will continue expanding our collaboration with partners to build an entire ecosystem dedicated to delivering new and innovative platforms for our end-use customers.

Q: 2013 has been quite a remarkable year for Thuraya with the launch of new products such as the Thuraya IP+ and SatSleeve. How will Thuraya build on these milestones to expand the current product portfolio?
Roberts: A growing number of customers are starting to take advantage of the capabilities of the Thuraya IP+ to access bandwidth-hungry applications in real time. The government, media and broadcasting, maritime and energy sectors are the key market segments that are showing good traction for Thuraya IP+, and we aim to continue working closely with our Service Partners to build on the commercial potential of this particular product. We also see huge potential for Thuraya IP+ in the M2M sector, for instance, where the features of MSS-based broadband equipment make a lot of sense for many M2M applications.

The Thuraya SatSleeve has done remarkably well since its launch, and we will work on further expanding the SatSleeve product family to support the platforms of other smartphones besides Apple iOS. At the same time, we are looking to introduce more new voice products to market, particularly to address customer needs in the maritime and energy sectors. We continue to see favorable developments in our maritime product portfolio as well, where offerings such as Maritime Broadband have served customers well in terms of addressing their specific demands for cost-competitive airtime.

Thuraya is also working with partners to develop satellite modules that can be built into other mobile hardware platforms to provide satellite-based voice and data capabilities. We plan to engage more hardware developers and help our Service Partners roll out these new products.

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