Thuraya has Africa covered

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

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By  Richard Agnew Published  May 4, 2004

UAE-based satellite mobile venture, Thuraya, is set to extend its services into Southern Africa as part of attempts to increase 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 coverage extended from Central and Northern Africa into the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda and Burundi. Handsets are expected to become available in the nine markets in the next few weeks, after terms have been agreed 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, Thuraya. The expansion forms part of the operator’s focus on territorial expansion this year, to help continue the subscriber growth it experienced during 2003. Having received a boost of 50,000 new users following the war in Iraq last year, the operator is aiming to increase its active user base to 300,000 by the end of 2004. It held 185,000 direct users at the end of 2003, up from 75.000 in 2002. Africa is also expected to be a key target market for the operator in 2004. Thuraya is looking to expand 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. Earlier this year, the operator also 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 38,000 subscribers and revenues of US$30 million in five years, and may also expand to other countries. Elsewhere, the operator is also planning to reposition Thuraya-1, the first of its two geo-stationary spacecraft, to cover the Far East from September. Countries to be brought within range of the satellite will 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. ”We are working in accordance with the requirements of national regulatory authorities and will be selecting experienced service providers to represent Thuraya in these countries,” says Yousuf Al Sayed, Thuraya’s chief executive. “The introduction of Thuraya services throughout Asia is our first… step towards covering the world,” he adds.

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