Thuraya tests water at Gitex
Thuraya is probing demand for mobile communications from the region’s maritime industry.
Thuraya is at Gitex 2004 to reconnoitre the Middle East’s maritime market. The Abu Dhabi-based satellite mobile operator is planning to launch a range of solutions for the region’s fishing industry and leisure boat sector, and is using the show to test out demand.
“We are at the stage of market testing our maritime solutions,” explains Jamal Al Jarwan, executive manager of business development at Thuraya. “We’ll be showing our maritime products and seeing what customers are looking for. Gitex has always been successful for us in generating new business and interfacing with customers,” he adds.
Although Thuraya has yet to add the finishing touches to its maritime offering, it says that the solutions will cover a wide range of services including voice, data, fax, e-mail and internet access. The units include an outdoor antenna, transmitter, standard extension phone and antenna inside the boat’s deck.
The idea is to offer connections to shipping firms’ corporate intranets and allow vessels to access information on the move, including weather updates, e-commerce data and images, such as maps. It also plans to provide crew calling solutions to address the loneliness and difficulties seafarers face when away from their friends and family for long periods of time.
As its network covers the Middle East, Africa, and parts of Europe and Asia, Thuraya plans to target shipping firms that operate in those areas, including yachts, pleasure boats, fishing boats and dhows. Its satellites cover the Red Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Arabian Sea, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, and part of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The operator says that its rates will be almost the same as its charges on land, although antennae for ships are often more expensive.
“We’re targeting a very specific market segment,” says Al Jarwan. “We’re not aiming at big, ocean-going ships yet, just boats that sail the seas that we cover. Dubai will be a good market for us, with its marinas. Once we complete our market testing, we’ll start with Dubai,” he adds.
Also on show at Gitex, meanwhile, are Thuraya’s yet-to-be-launched outdoor payphones and the second version of its public call offices (PCOs). These allow entrepreneurs in developing countries to set up kiosks and charge for calls, and have been launched in various countries including Iraq, Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan. Thuraya is also close to launching the solutions in Morocco.
For further growth, the operator is urging telecoms regulators to remove certain restrictions and allow PCOs to be used within funding programmes to expand access to telephony in currently un-served areas.
“We’re working with various vendors, regulators and operators to solve the issue of universal access and allow everyone on earth to make calls at a reasonable rate,” says Al Jarwan.“We’ve been promoting this concept to several administrations in the region and have received some encouraging remarks, but we need a push. We’re at a stage where this could advance very quickly if regulatory restrictions are removed,” he adds.
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