Inmarsat enters Kuwait and Jordan

Inmarsat is planning to make Kuwait a regional sales hub after securing approval to enter the market for the first time.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  February 9, 2005

Inmarsat is planning to make Kuwait a regional sales hub after securing approval to enter the market for the first time. The UK-based satellite operator has been granted a licence by the Kuwaiti government, allowing its service providers to tap into demand for remote connectivity from local companies, as well as businesses and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in Iraq. Inmarsat also claims that the move signals further de-regulation in Middle Eastern markets, where curbs on the distribution of its terminals and services have held its regional business back. “This is really the first time a licence has been awarded in the Middle East, which will undoubtedly make Kuwait a good sales hub for us in the region,” says Samer Halawi, regional director, Inmarsat Middle East. Barrak International Centre Co, a Kuwait-based internet service provider (ISP), will become the first of the operator’s partners to take advantage of the licence, which became effective in early February. It plans to offer the entire range of Inmarsat’s mobile voice and data solutions through a partnership with its global distributor, Triband. However, the service provider is expected to primarily concentrate on selling the operator’s 144 Kbits/s regional broadband global area network (Regional BGAN) systems, to customers operating in Kuwait or Iraq. “Iraq is just next door and is really our biggest market just now, plus Kuwait does have remote areas and a strong oil sector,” says Halawi. “We don’t have any service providers in Iraq but there are lots of people that sell into it. It’s easier for them to sell outside to people who will take it into the country. We expect good traffic from Kuwait, but mostly from Iraq,” he adds. Inmarsat also hopes that the move is a sign that authorities in the region are becoming more willing to open up their markets, which have so far remained closed to its service providers. “We’ve had some activity before in Kuwait, but previously people [service providers] were working with government departments which could get authorisation themselves, or end-users who previously had to get their own licences,” says Halawi. “Now this is the first time people are officially allowed to promote the Inmarsat service. The GCC countries have tended to be more closed than other countries in the region so that openness is definitely a very good sign,” he adds. The operator is understood to be pursuing approval to enter Egypt, and says it has recently secured authorisation to offer its solutions Jordan after discussions with the Kingdom’s Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC). These resulted in the TRC relaxing its previous stance that both Inmarsat and its service providers must buy separate licences. “The TRC in Jordan was talking about having both licences but just waived that recently, so our service providers are in a position today to apply for licences,” says Halawi.

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