First Arab satellite 'set to transform comms services'

$500m project to improve broadband, TV services, on target for 2011 launch into orbit.

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By  Andy Sambidge Published  March 3, 2009

A ground-breaking $500 million plan to send the Arab World's first private satellite into orbit will dramatically improve the region's communications capability, project leaders have announced.

SmartSat was officially launched on Monday as a key initiative to help broadband and broadcast service providers ensure better quality offerings for end-users in the Middle East.

The SmartSat satellite, which officials say is on target for launch in 2011, will primarily target the region's internet service providers (ISPs), GSM providers, broadband technology solutions providers, television stations, ministries of communication, military agencies and companies dealing with data systems.

"The new satellite will provide a powerful platform that will dramatically improve the communications capability of the MENA region, particularly through a comprehensive line of satellite broadband and broadcast service options," Khaled Derbas, chairman of SmartSat, said in comments published by news agency WAM.

Commenting on the economic impact of SmartSat's satellite project, Faisal al Anjari, chairman of Al Jawhara Holding added: "With the growing number of satellite users, studies have shown that the MENA's commercial satellite-lease revenues have been growing 17 percent annually since 2003, indicating a remarkable growth potential that we believe will be further enhanced with the launch of the Arab World's first private satellite into orbit."

SmartSat has revealed that the satellite is now in the design stage while two of the world's top 10 global satellite manufacturers have already been shortlisted for the project, keeping the satellite firmly on schedule for its projected launch in 2011.

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