Deputy CEO Sulaiman Al Ali on Fortifying Thuraya’s Satcom Presence

In an exclusive interview to SatellitePRO Middle East Magazine, Thuraya's Deputy CEO, Sulaiman Al Ali, talked about the company's plans after being acquired by Yahsat and establishing a position in the satcom market.

Sulaiman Al Ali is Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Thuraya, the Mobile Satellite Services subsidiary of Yahsat. He was formerly the Executive VP of the Commercial Division within Yahsat Government Solutions. Sulaiman started with Yahsat in 2014 as a Satellite Projects Manager, responsible for delivering SATCOM managed end-to-end solutions for government customers. He has more than 17 years of experience, working in the regional and international telecommunications sector across the UAE, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ivory Coast. SatellitePro ME queries him about his journey and his plans for Thuraya.

What brought you to the satellite industry?

I joined Yahsat in 2014 as Director Satellite Projects and was tasked with delivering end-to-end managed satcom solutions for government customers. Since then, I have played many roles before being appointed now as Deputy CEO of Thuraya. In this role, I aim to augment the company’s operations and revenue growth through enhanced communication services for both our government and commercial customers. I am also responsible for strengthening Thuraya’s commercial strategy and leveraging its extensive offerings to provide our customers with flexible, adaptive solutions that address a wide range of critical communication needs.

How will you use the expertise you have built at Yahsat to make Thuraya profitable?

I believe solutions and business strategies that are backed by genuine insights, market research and pre-emptive customer service will unlock opportunities for growth. When you remove certain functionalities, stick to the essentials and add features that customers really need, you stimulate interest. We factored this simple yet crucial detail when developing our latest maritime voice solution, Thuraya MarineStar. The post-launch results from Asia are adequate proof that our readings were accurate – an unprecedented demand for Thuraya MarineStar has eclipsed supply. In a market of declining profits, last year was exceptional for us in terms of revenue growth.

What do you think are some of the big needs and trends in satcom market verticals, and how do you see Thuraya supporting those markets?

We perceive great opportunities in the aerospace market. The launch of our aero mobility platform – Thuraya Aero – last year marked Thuraya’s entry into the high-speed connected aerospace market. We held a couple of highly successful aerial surveillance demos of the Aero solution for key UAE government customers.

Demand for aeronautical connectivity could be driven by new markets and projects such as the One Belt One Road initiative to connect China to Europe, and to East Africa through Central Asia. Most of these trade routes pass through remote areas with little to no connectivity. The supply chain and aerial logistics tracking requirements on these routes will be huge, requiring reliable solutions that we can supply.

We are also excited about the Internet of Things (IoT). Since terrestrial cellular networks do not provide full coverage of the Earth’s landmass, the need for more satellite-based connectivity for the IoT sector to reach its full potential is undisputed. Although 5G is right around the corner, the next generation of cellular mobile networks will not fit every need. Thuraya can fill the gap by enabling wide-area IoT deployments.

Maritime, especially its entry-level segment, also holds great promise. More than 80% of the world’s fishing regions lie within Thuraya’s footprint, so ours is a truly inclusive service. Governments now require fishing vessels to report their catches electronically and log their movements while at sea. Thuraya makes compliance simple by bundling all the essential elements into simple solutions backed by flexible pricing.

What will Yahsat’s backing help Thuraya do that it could not do before?

The acquisition of Thuraya in 2018 has helped Yahsat-Thuraya to become the world’s eighth-largest satellite services operator, providing an integrated mix of fixed and mobile satcom technologies in more than 160 countries across Asia, Europe, Africa, South America and Australia. By effecting a total convergence of Ka-, Ku-, C- and L-bands, we have demonstrated our commitment to a fully connected world with safer borders, seas and skies. From consultancy, customisations for products and applications to operations and maintenance, we provide governments and multinational enterprises a secure, interoperable and multiband communications platform that never fails in times of need.

In 2020, Yahsat will initiate an ambitious satellite replacement programme for Thuraya. As its majority stakeholder, the company has a clear vision and a well-defined roadmap for Thuraya’s future development.

In your 17 years of experience, what have been your biggest challenges?

Very early in my career, I received international exposure through stints in tough environments like Nigeria, Pakistan and Ivory Coast. Each day presented a new set of challenges. Rather than viewing them as impediments, I learned to identify the hidden opportunities they contained. After joining Yahsat, I managed government and military customers who do not take no for an answer. No matter how difficult the situation is, there is no room for delay or excuses in the critical communications sector. Such experiences compel you to be innovative and develop solutions in line with customer requirements, within stipulated timeframes.

What opportunities do you foresee in 2020, and how will Thuraya address them?

Thuraya has consolidated its position overall, optimising revenue inflows and reining in operational expenses. Diversification in terms of deliverables and distribution channels is vital for future growth. Therefore, the challenge for us now is to establish our presence in newer market segments such as IoT and maritime.

Satellite operators need to transform from capacity providers to service providers, offering their customers an entire package. Following Yahsat’s lead in this regard, Thuraya could go deep into the value chain by providing managed solutions – a process that can involve designing, building and even operating a network, depending on customer demands. This could very well be the future for us.

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Interview: CCO Shawkat Ahmed Talks In Depth on Thuraya MarineStar

Tom Cox from The Maritime Executive spoke with Shawkat Ahmed, our Chief Commercial Officer about the new Thuraya MarineStar satellite voice solution with tracking and monitoring capabilities at Europort 2019 in Rotterdam.

Tell us how Thuraya MarineStar was born?
When you remove certain functionality and stick with the essentials to become commercially available, simultaneously incorporating functions that people really need, you gain a lot of interest from the market. 

Thuraya MarineStar is backed by  genuine insights, mainly from the fishery market. It enables tracking and monitoring as well as simple voice, and is highly affordable. The backbone of this solution is our success stories, spanning more than two decades in the mobile voice communications industry. To date, we have sold in excess of one million voice units. Therefore, the opportunity for Thuraya MarineStar in this market is indisputably huge. There are thousands of maritime vessels, which need a simple, affordable, effective and robust terminal for daily fishing operations. 

What are MarineStar's key features?
Thuraya MarineStar has been designed with two key ideas in mind: - 1) Providing communication and 2) Compliance with the regulation for fish catch reporting, which is mandatory and beneficial to all vessel operators in the fisheries sector. The more you report your catch, the better chance you will have to export your goods at much higher rates! 

The MarineStar has a number of compact, but noteworthy, features like the SOS button and over-the-air updates. You can link an analogue phone and put it down in the cabin. This is good for crew welfare and crew calling. It is not overly complicated – but a simple, cost-effective solution enabling tracking and monitoring. 

I would also like to add that it is not just another stand-alone product. Thuraya MarineStar is essentially a package solution. Apart from delivering voice communications, it comes with the possibility to also track so that people do not necessarily have to invest further in their tracking systems or a brand new application. We provide all this, plus more on subscription basis. 

Today in Asia, there is a lot of regulation around illegal fishing. Governments want to curb unlawful activities. Thuraya MarineStar activates geo-fencing, besides various other features, that can be downloaded on physical interfaces by regulators or fishery associations, depending on the unique requirements of users. Thuraya helps them comply with all regulatory norms related to transmission. 

The other key benefit is obviously in terms of logistics. You connect the device to various sensors, and relevant data is transmitted to the system periodically, enabling users to manage logistics operations better. In some other cases, the terminal could be linked to temperature, speed and various other parameters. 

What is your target market for MarineStar?
The MarineStar unlocks special opportunities for us; the most significant being the fisherman, who expects to be connected throughout his journey outside the coast - on the same mobile number that he uses on land. Thuraya is the only company in the world that offers this unique possibility. On our network, you can roam with your local number, remaining within reach at sea while catching fish, doing other activities or simply when traveling from one region to another. People can contact you on the same number. The reverse also holds true. You could make calls from it to connect with friends, business partners or whomever you have to. This again, adds another layer of simplicity. 

As I see it, Thuraya MarineStar ticks all the boxes that are vital for the end-user, in terms of safety, connectivity and most importantly, affordability. Because, what we have seen so far - from our history as well as that of our competitors - is that there were products that had ambitious launches, but were unfortunately “out of the reach.” End users could not afford to pay for the hardware; the total cost of ownership was beyond them. Furthermore, they did not have packages customized for their requirements. 

It is common knowledge that the requirements of a market like Vietnam would be appreciably different from those of Japan or China. For such disparate geographies, we have devised bespoke pricing models and bundles. Ultimately, they are based on user requirements, how much the user can pay, and how frequently he wants to update. All these are easily manageable.  

How long it has taken to develop Thuraya MarineStar? 
It has taken Thuraya almost seven months. We had to make a substantial investment to develop this solution. After evaluating different suppliers, we decided to work with APSI from South Korea, considering their flawless record of delivering more than one million handsets for us. Besides, their quality standards are exceptional. We believe that our faith is reciprocated by APSI - especially after last year’s acquisition, when Yahsat took over the management of Thuraya. 

What are your plans for the future?
In the future, we intend to focus more on the maritime sector. We have decided that our priority for investment, business development and marketing should be maritime in the next few years. Thuraya MarineStar is our first step in this direction. We believe it will help us gain entry into the business, but there is definitely more to come. This is part of our diversification plan as well, because so far we have been mainly successful overland with our voice and data products. 

It is an exciting time for us! We have already received so many inquiries on Thuraya MarineStar, and they are an early sign that the terminal is going to be very successful. We unrolled a pre-launch campaign that was shared with our distributors. I am happy to note that more than 75 percent of the initial stock has already been acquired by various Service Partners. This means we will have to re-order. Presently, we are focusing on multiple regions, because the initial wave of orders came from Asia. By being here in Rotterdam, interacting and meeting our European partners, we note there is a similar enthusiasm here for the product. Again, this is very important in development, because we have realized that this solution has fantastic global potential. 

Some of our partners also view the MarineStar as a cost-effective backup to their high throughput solutions that could help maximize their margins. So, instead of buying a product, which is three times more expensive, they could invest in this terminal. We are going to incentivize further by arranging insurance packages, as we understand the solution will be used as a backup. We won’t be charging the end-users heavily. Our monthly backup charges are very reasonable. 

You have had very good initial successes with the Asian market and Asian fishing owners. Have you had any initial success in Europe?
Yes, of course. Our key European maritime partner operates out of France. They have placed a sizeable order, as they understood the MarineStar’s possibilities here. We are discussing with some companies in Holland too. There is a region in Holland called Urk that is a fishery hub. There are many other areas too that are fishing hotspots. The initial view is that Thuraya MarineStar is a very flexible, dependable and affordable solution. We are extremely optimistic. 

You mentioned the plan is to focus more on Maritime moving forward. Can you speak any more about those plans?
Let us consider the big merchant vessel business where the requirement is for very high data throughput. To cater to such high bandwidth usage, Thuraya is collaborating with Panasonic that has  global coverage on Ku-band. But High Throughput Services (HTS) powered by Ku-band are not as reliable as L-band solutions. Therefore, as a backup option for those large vessels, we have incorporated an L-band system, which is combined with Ku from Panasonic. This is how we are addressing divergent market needs.

We discern huge potential with small and medium-sized boats that do regional business. Since our coverage is also regional, we believe Thuraya can satisfy the requirements of approximately 90 percent of this market. Within the segment, the primary focus for us would be fisheries. 

We have embarked on many promising projects, but have also seen people actively seeking our expertise to minimize their operational costs - by deploying our systems whenever and wherever possible.

Source: The Maritime Executive

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Successful Demonstration of Thuraya Aero Mobility to Government Customers


Successful Demo of Thuraya Aero Mobility to Government Customers

The technology demonstration highlighted the reliability and effectiveness of Thuraya’s Aero solution for various ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance) operations associated with border patrol, maritime and environmental protection, in addition to disaster relief missions.

Thuraya & Airbus Demonstrate Aero Mobility Capabilities at Dubai Air Show 2019

Thuraya Successfully Conducts Aero Mobility Demonstration to Key Government Customers

twitter - 328949386 - By effecting a convergence of #satellite


Thuraya X5-Touch Android satellite phone

An Android-powered satellite phone, the Thuraya X5-Touch provides exceptional out-of-the-box features with remarkable connectivity. Thuraya's X5-Touch bridges the gap between traditional, rugged satellite phones and modern smartphone technology, offering both advanced smart functions and reliable, consistent connectivity wherever you are. In fact, it is the world's first Android-based satellite touch phone. 

The Advantages of the Thuraya X5-Touch

In the world of satcom technology, Thuraya was the first company to tap into the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach also known as Bring Your Own Technology. Powered by Android Nougat, the X5-Touch makes it possible to bring your own apps anywhere. Commonly used apps such as Gmail, Google Maps, Google Search, and the Google Play Store come preinstalled for convenience, and 3rd party applications can easily be installed as needed. In addition to these smart features, however, the X5-Touch has a rugged, travel-ready build.

A 5.2" Gorilla glass touchscreen, water protection, dust protection, and shock, vibration, and temperature resistance all work to make the X5-Touch one of the most durable smartphones available. In fact, the Thuraya X5-Touch Android satellite phone is the most durable phone in its class, with IP67 standard and MIL 810 G/F compliance.

A powerful battery, dedicated SOS button, and advanced navigation solutions further enhance the X5-Touch's abilities as a travel-friendly phone. The X5-Touch can be used for everything from oil field contract work to recreational travel, providing always on connectivity through Thuraya's wide satellite coverage. The X5-Touch can connect through satellite, WiFi, Bluetooth, or NFC.

Use Cases for the Thuraya X5-Touch Android Satellite Phone

1. Business sector. Give employees access to consistent, high quality international calling without asking them to give up their apps.

2. Oil and energy sector. Employees and contractors will be able to communicate via satellite in rural locations or at sea on oil rigs.

3. Defense and security sector. Defense and security users can use the X5-Touch to remain in contact in any type of deployment.

4. Recreational sector. Those who are frequent travelers can use the X5-Touch as a primary phone, to connect with family and friends wherever they are.

5. Media and news sector. Media professionals often need to report in from international locations; the X5-Touch makes this posisble.

6. Disaster and emergency sector. Relief employees can use the X5-Touch to connect and coordinate in many countries throughout the world.

Accessories for the Thuraya X5-Touch

Thuraya provides a number of useful technologies for the X5-Touch, which can be used to extend the features, reliability, and usability of the product.

1. Solar chargers. Perfect for travel, solar chargers provide additional battery power even in areas without electricity.

2. Travel chargers. With exchangeable plugs, the X5-Touch travel charger can be used virtually anywhere in the world.

3. Car chargers. Charge while on the go with the Thuraya X5-Touch car charger, designed to work in a car lighter socket.

4. Spare battery. Rather than wasting time charging, you can pop in a spare battery -- a rare feature for smartphones.

5. Indoor repeaters. For better connectivity, indoor repeaters can be used to boost a weak signal.

6. External satellite antenna. Antenna can be used to improve satellite reception while moving, such as in a car.

Ultimately, the X5-Touch offers the best of both worlds when it comes to smartphones and traditional satellite phones. The Thuraya X5-Touch provides all of the smartphone features you could need in a rugged, travel-ready device.

On the smartphone side, you get a powerful camera, apps and touchscreen. In addition to this, you get reliable, secure satellite communications. If you're interested in the Thuraya X5-Touch, look for retailers in your location today.

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Continuing our journey

Reliability, Trust and Innovation - these core values have been at the forefront of the Thuraya brand for the last twenty years. The last two decades have seen some extraordinary developments for Thuraya, from exceptional growth to constantly improving customer satisfaction. And with our merger with Yahsat last year, these core values are only growing stronger.

As a leading global Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) operator, Thuraya has carved a reputation for itself that spans the globe. The Thuraya brand embodies dynamism and a willingness to disrupt the industry, adapting its offerings to fulfill customer needs, and pioneering meaningful innovation in the telecommunications industry. Through future-forward thinking, Thuraya has been able to consistently improve upon its product offerings and expand its reach.

Now Thuraya is moving into a new stage of its brand journey, it welcomes both an expansion of its branding and capabilities. Following Thuraya’s merger with Yahsat in April of last year, Thuraya has moved forward as a mobile satellite communications subsidiary of Yahsat. As Thuraya grows with Yahsat, both companies are creating a shared vision of the future. And, as always, this future is 'customer first.'

Thuraya has always been committed to innovation, anticipating the needs of the market and providing truly unique and useful technologies. Through the union with Yahsat, Thuraya hopes to be able to bring even more advanced technology to the market. As a leader in Mobile Satellite Services, Thuraya recognizes that the industry is going through radical changes and that new resources will need to be leveraged to successfully serve the constantly expanding market.

Yahsat is a global satellite provider, and the addition of Thuraya's satellites - connecting to 160 countries - will bring its own total satellite assets up to five. Through this merger, both Yahsat and Thuraya will be able to improve coverage, both in terms of geographical spread and the quality of transmissions. With a newly reshaped fleet, Thuraya is poised to improve upon and grow its operations, hand-in-hand with its acquiring partner.

Thuraya has spent twenty years building customer loyalty and faith, and the strength of this branding remains present following the merger with Yahsat. With combined missions, Thuraya and Yahsat will be working together to provide high-quality connectivity throughout the world. With innovative, disruptive technologies, Thuraya and Yahsat are now able to forget into never-before-seen technologies, with the backing of their collective resources.

Stay tuned for more information about Thuraya's brand journey, new changes coming up for the company, and exciting introductions to the Thuraya and Yahsat product line. The coming year will undoubtedly bring interesting things to Thuraya - and to the Mobile Satellite Services market.

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M2M Dubai: How technology is changing life in the emirate

Dubai is changing swiftly. With advanced new technologies, a constantly expanding oil industry, and a growing and complex economy, communication has become more important than ever. IoT/M2M offers a major avenue for innovation and economic growth, and has the potential to address many of region’s challenges. Through these technologies, businesses are able to stay connected, regardless of where they are.

In line with the Smart Dubai Plan 2021, the emirate would be ready for mass IoT adoption by 2020.

Getting connected with M2M Dubai 

Though Dubai still has an extremely robust oil and gas industry, diversification of the economy is incredibly important for long-term stability. Within the UAE, many are now looking to Dubai for ways to grow and expand without a reliance on the oil industry. Consequently, Dubai has been growing in areas of commerce, tourism, and more. These types of expansion absolutely demand the best available technologies, and it's important for the groundwork for these technologies to be laid well in advance of expansion.

From oil fields to new construction projects, there are many areas of Dubai that are remote and still in development. Relying on traditional cellular signals isn't feasible in these locations, as they don't have coverage available. M2M can provide coverage to even the most remote of locations, ensuring the productivity and safety of these new developments. M2M includes communications technologies such as satellite phones, which rely on a broad network of satellites to deliver cellular data and internet data from anywhere in the world.

M2M for Dubai oil & gas

With lower oil prices being the new norm, enterprises in Dubai are adopting smarter, end-to-end M2M solutions for efficient operations, without jeopardizing their profit margins. This trend is bound to grow as the industry becomes even more competitive.  Oil corporations are already altering their drilling strategies after comparing real-time down-hole drilling data with data from production of nearby wells. The advanced analytics are effected by intelligent M2M tools. According to Bain & Company, this level of visibility can help companies improve production by 6% to 8%.

Thuraya M2M automates monitoring and data readings of compressors, tank liquids, LACT (Lease Automatic Custody Transfer) meters, PIGs (Pipeline Inspection Gauges) as well as rectifiers deployed for cathodic protection.

M2M and cold chain telematics in Dubai

It is estimated that nearly 3.27 million tons of food, worth more than US $3.54 billion produced and imported in the UAE is wasted every year. The vast majority of food wastage happens before it even reaches the consumer.  In the past, there was very little consistent cold chain integrity. The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the efficiency of long distance food, pharmaceutical, and other perishable supply chains in the region.

According to recent studies, between 20 - 30% of the trucks and delivery wagons supplying food stuff in the UAE need to be equipped with the telematics technology as real-time information is key to managing F&B fleets efficiently. Rather than merely consisting of freezers and freight trains, the newer, temperature-controlled, ‘cold’ supply chain is now increasingly incorporating digital software solutions, secure cloud technology, and open architecture. 

In areas outside regular telecom networks, Thuraya’s IoT/M2M technologies are the prime enablers of efficient cold chain supply and management.  

Civil defense and M2M technology

When it comes to civil defense, the government and the public need to be connected. Yet as people continue to spread out to remote areas this can be difficult. If the telecommunications lines are down, it can potentially endanger important emergency communications. The political landscape is changing as quickly as the economic one, and many countries are now facing new challenges related to securing their cities and their borders. From external attacks to environmental disasters, it's important for civil defense that every country be able to swiftly mobilize and alert its citizens.

Thuraya M2M helps government agencies connect with citizens regardless of the types of emergencies that are occurring. 98% of all buildings in Dubai, residential and commercial - old and new – are now linked to the central operation rooms of civil defence authorities as part of the Ministry of Interior’s ‘Hassantuk’ project. Using state of the art M2M technology, remote-communication technologies such as GPS and GPRS, every building and asset within Dubai, both government and privately-owned are monitored in real time for fire, lift and emergency alarms.  

In urban settlements, satellite M2M provides secondary backup to GSM for 24X7 surveillance. However, where there is little terrestrial telecom coverage - such as desert and mountain outposts - Thuraya’s M2M solutions take the center stage.

M2M for better corporate profits

Companies coming to Dubai want to have their profits secured. Better technology and better communication are more attractive to investors long-term, bringing money into the economy and aiding further expansion. M2M Dubai doesn't just improve upon the telecommunications resources open for a company; it can also directly improve their bottom line. M2M devices can be used for sensor equipment in the oil and gas industry, security solutions, and safety processes, reducing potential risks. ​

Thuraya Satellite IoT/M2M

Satellite phones and telecommunications aren't the only M2M technologies; data can also be transmitted, paving the way for network connectivity in areas that were previously unable to be developed. Developing out these more remote regions will not only lead to improved commerce, but it will also eventually lead to additional livable areas where the population centers can expand and new amenities, such as shopping and entertainment venues, can be built.

If Dubai is to continue to thrive, it must continue to grow. The shifting global economy requires that companies do everything that they can to acquire better technology and further their accessibility. M2M technologies are able to provide better solutions overall, from innovation to security.

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