Thuraya extends coverage in Africa

UAE-based satellite mobile venture, Thuraya, is set to extend its services into Southern Africa as part of attempts to expand its user base to 300,000 by the end of the year.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  April 19, 2004

UAE-based satellite mobile venture, Thuraya, is set to extend its services into Southern Africa as part of attempts to expand its user base to 300,000 by the end of the year. The operator is currently carrying out tests to bring nine new countries within the range of its second satellite, Thuraya-2. Thuraya says it is also working with its satellite manufacturer, Boeing, to bring the entire continent within Thuraya-2’s reach. Initially, the move will see the satellite’s existing coverage area extended from Central and Northern Africa into the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda and Burundi. Thuraya handsets are expected to become available in the nine markets after the operator has agreed terms with local distributors. “We haven’t signed any service provider agreements so far, but we are working on them,” says Abdulla Touhami, marketing and sales manager at Thuraya. The move forms part of the operator’s focus on territorial expansion to help continue the subscriber growth it experienced last year. A boost of 50,000 new users following the war in Iraq contributed to an increase in Thuraya’s direct user base from 75,000 in 2002 to 185,000 by the end of 2003. Africa is expected to be a key area of focus in the operator’s efforts to increase its customer base to 300,000 by the end of 2004. Earlier this year, Thuraya announced a joint venture with existing shareholder, Sudatel, to market its handsets and solutions in Sudan. The US$2.5 million company, 20% owned by Thuraya, has targeted acquisition of 38,000 subscribers and revenues of US$30 million in five years, and may also expand its area of focus to other countries. Thuraya is also looking to generate uptake of its public call office (PCO) solutions in the continent by tapping into the ITU’s universal access programme and governmental initiatives to extend access. Elsewhere, the operator is planning to reposition its first satellite to cover the Far East from Q404. Countries to be brought within range of the satellite include China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and parts of the Russian Federation, leaving the operator’s second satellite to focus on the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Meanwhile, Thuraya says it has factored in potential subscriber churn to the three mobile networks recently launched in Iraq, and will shortly agree a roaming agreement with the Orascom Telecom-led Iraqna consortium covering the country’s central region. “We still believe that Iraq is a very important market for us,” adds Touhami.

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