Thuraya brings East Asia under its footprint with Thuraya-3 launch

Currently boasting the largest subscriber base of satellite handheld users, UAE-based Thuraya will be launching a new satellite, Thuraya-3, by the end of March 2007.

Thuraya-3 will add East Asia to its existing coverage spanning Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and the Indian subcontinent. The expansion of Thuraya's coverage area will enable it to serve nearly two thirds of the globe's population. Among the countries benefiting will be China, Indonesia, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia. In total, 100 countries are covered in full or in part by Thuraya satellite technology.

"We expect to be able to roll out commercial service to our new subscribers in East Asia within months of the launch date," said Thuraya's CEO Yousuf Al Sayed, who anticipates that the company will acquire approximately 30,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Mr Al Sayed added that Thuraya is looking forward to working closely with the telecom sectors of China and other countries in the region in order to complement existing telecoms solutions and products to ensure meeting the growing needs of the economic, industrial and commercial sectors.

"But essentially we will aim with our local partners to provide access to telecom services to all people and families in remote, rural areas through the blanket coverage of the Thuraya satellite system," said Mr Al Sayed.On licensing and regulatory aspects, Mr Al Sayed said negotiations were underway in securing licences in several countries: "We are working closely with the regulatory authorities in the region."

With its major participation in ITU Telecom World, Thuraya aimed to get closer to its potential partners and customers in the region and identify their local needs. As a sign of commitment towards serving the region efficiently, Thuraya has recently opened a regional office in Singapore to address and support the needs of its distribution partners and subscribers in the region. Recruitment for the new office is predominantly made from within the East-Asian region itself.

Thuraya offers a range of solutions from handheld terminals and rural telephony (Public Calling Office and Payphones) to maritime communications, broadband services and tracking applications. Most recently, Thuraya launched its well-received second-generation satellite handheld terminals comprising a satellite-only handset (SO-2510) and a smart phone (SG-2520) combining satellite and tri-band GSM, as well as a Thuraya module that can be used for developing any third-party telecom solution based on Thuraya's system.

This is certainly a time of change for Thuraya. Its Thuraya-1 is experiencing problems as it gets old, and is only in use for testing. At present, therefore, Thuraya-2 alone supplies services to customers. This carries real responsibilities as Thuraya claims 65% market share of satellite traffic within the area of Thuraya-2's footprint.

In the global context, Thuraya has 26% of the satellite market. It is the company's belief that satellites are suited to areas with a population density lower then 50 people per km2. At this density and under Thuraya further believes that cellular is currently not financially competitive.Turning to individual markets, Iraq accounted for 60% of Thuraya's business in 2004, 40% in 2005 and 7% now. Growth markets have been Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and countries south of the Sahara, in particular DR Congo and Angola.

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