Thuraya reaches out all across the globe

Abu Dhabi-based satcomms provider, Thuraya, has continued to gradually expand its coverage area. Soon, it will embark on a new phase of expansion with the launch of its third satellite.

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By  Administrator Published  September 9, 2007

Founded in 1997 by a consortium of leading national telecommunications operators and international investment houses, mobile satellite services provider Thuraya now services approximately a third of the globe (a landmass of over 2.3 billion people). The Etisalat-controlled company launched its first satellite in 2000 and added a second three years later, with the company now servicing Europe, the Middle East, North & Central Africa and parts of the South of the continent.

Thuraya plans to launch its third satellite in October this year extending its service area to take in Australia, the Far East, South East Asia, and large areas of Siberia.

Thuraya is confident that the US $250 million investment in the new venture, combined with its aggressive marketing and recent business tie-ups will instigate 100% growth in terms of subscriber additions. "We are targeting 500, 000 subscribers over the next three years on the back of this expansion programme," says Sultan Al Ghafli, chief commercial officer of Thuraya.

"Currently our coverage area extends from Bangladesh East to Gibraltar West and from Scandinavia to the Northern tip of South Africa," he adds.

Al Ghafli states that the addition of the Boeing Satellite Systems-built station will extend the company's current voice and data services to the new geographies in both the land and maritime segments.

He also adds that the Thuraya-3 satellite will be launched from Earth's equator in the Pacific Ocean, the nearest landmass to which is the Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, on October 15, with services being fully operational after two months of testing.

The October launch of the Thuraya-3 satellite was penned in after the company's previous date of January 2007 suffered a setback when its proposed sea launch vessel experienced technical difficulties, postponing any subsequent take-offs.

Al Ghafli goes on to detail that the initial failure to launch had delayed the company's expansion strategy for 2007, but notes that the company did not suffer as much as initial reports had portrayed.

"We were fortunate in that the Thuraya-3 was not onboard the vessel when it experienced those technical difficulties [the satellite involved belonged to a different company] so our satellite did not suffer any direct damages as a result of the incident," he explains.

With such recent aggressive market activity, Thuraya signed an agreement to raise US $125 million through a syndicated loan facility arranged by the Investment Banking division of Emirates Bank International and Emirates Financial Services, with a tenor of five years, in July this year.

The agreement replaces a six-month bridge loan arranged in December 2006 that was used to replace the company's initial US $600 million loan taken in 1999 when the company's fortunes were not as buoyant as they are at present.

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