Launch control

Amid a dearth of satellite bandwidth, Dr Jassem Mohamed Al Zaabi, CEO of satellite operator Yahsat, explains how he intends to carve a niche among lucrative commercial and government clients.

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By  Administrator Published  April 2, 2008

Amid a dearth of satellite bandwidth, Jassem Mohamed Al Zaabi, CEO of satellite operator Yahsat, explains how he intends to carve a niche among lucrative commercial and government clients.

Jassem Mohamed Al Zaabi, CEO of Abu Dhabi-based satellite operator Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat), has every reason to be optimistic about the future of his business.

Amid a shortage of satellite bandwidth, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, combined with surging demand for satellite voice, data and broadcast services, Yahsat is already attracting interest from around the world. Not bad for a company that is only due to launch its first satellite in the second half of 2010.

Confidence in the company may stem to the fact that it is owned by Mubadala Development Company, an investment firm owned by the government of Abu Dhabi and charged with the task of diversifying the emirate's economy through capital-intensive investments.

This has certainly given Yahsat ample funding to design and build its satellites, which when complete will differ from those of its rival operators' by catering to both commercial and governmental clients, in diverse industries including broadcast, commercial voice and data, and defense.

Yahsat's commercial plans, combined with the deep pockets of its owner, are already attracting some heavyweight international clients that anticipate the chronic demand for satellite bandwidth likely to exist in the region by 2010.

Indeed, Yahsat signed an agreement to provide C-band capacity to Emerging Markets Communications, Inc, a leading provider of global satellite communications, in March, in a deal worth some AED400 million. For Al Zaabi, EMC's decision came as a welcome vote of confidence in his company. "EMC is one of the largest satellite service providers," he says.

"For it to choose to work with Yahsat and to have the confidence in our systems and to engage with us in a long term agreement, two and a half years before launching a satellite, gives some idea of the confidence in Yahsat. It also tells you what kind of partners Yahsat is targeting - we are looking only at class-A partners."

EMC Corp is operator of one of the largest teleports facilities in the world. Under the terms of the contract EMC will lease transponders on Yahsat's powerful C-Band on a long-term basis to serve high profile government, commercial and non-profit organisations including the United Nations and various Fortune 500 companies.

Broad remit

Yahsat first came under the spotlight of the business media after signing a letter of intent with Arianespace in January to launch its first satellite. More recently, the company signed an agreement with US-based International Launch Services (ILS) and Thales Alenia Space of France to launch its second satellite in 2011. A third satellite is also planned for the following year. Prior to this, Yahsat spent a significant amount of time developing its satellite system before signing a French consortium including EADS to build it, in 2007.

Yahsat will offer services including voice, data, video, and internet trunking, over C-band and Ku bands, according to Al Zaabi. It will cover the Middle East, Africa, parts of Asia including Pakistan, in addition to parts of Southern Europe.

And Al Zaabi hopes that this coverage, combined with the company's technology platform, will be instrumental in Yahsat's success. "We are equipped to be very competitive, not only from a coverage perspective, but also in terms of technology," Al Zaabi says.

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