Throughout the war-torn Central African Republic, a not-for-profit organisation called SOS Children’s Villages provides food, shelter, sanitation, health care and education to thousands of children orphaned by conflict and disease.
It operates in parts of the country where basic infrastructure is non-existent – where the slightest delay in the delivery of emergency services and supplies could spell disaster for the children who rely on them.
To keep deliveries coming on time and to the right places, SOS Children’s Villages needs a reliable communications network that can be used to keep track of its field workers, manage a complex logistics network and keep key donors aware of their work.
This is where Thuraya comes in. Established in 1997, Thuraya is the UAE’s first homegrown mobile satellite services provider, with two geosynchronous satellites offering telecommunications services, including voice and data, to users in more than 160 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australia.
While the company provides communications solutions to a variety of market segments – energy, government, broadcast media, maritime, military and aerospace – CEO Ali Al Hashemi says it is Thuraya’s humanitarian initiatives and contributions that give him the greatest satisfaction in his work.
“Our services close the digital divide in the developing world, connecting communities and hastening their socioeconomic development,” he explains. “The beauty of this industry is that we connect people in need.”
Enabling Essential Communications
Thuraya has donated public calling office units that deliver voice, fax, data and SMS services in remote locations that have no other means of connectivity.
The company has also donated SatSleeves, which can enable smartphones to make calls in satellite mode when local networks fail, plus IP satellite broadband terminals that can be used anywhere within Thuraya’s coverage area for internet connectivity and data transfer.
The beauty of the satellite communications industry is that we connect people in need.
These solutions have become even more essential and useful during the pandemic. “During emergencies, such as the present COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to provide crucial connectivity solutions for voice and data for large populations for prolonged periods of time and enable critical communications for medical missions within isolated communities,” Ali says.
With the growing business and increasing importance of Thuraya’s products and services, the company has been able to forge ahead with a half-billion-dollar investment program to modernise its space and ground infrastructure.
Through a recent partnership with Airbus, Thuraya’s fourth satellite – Thuraya 4-NGS – is now being built, and is due to be in service by 2024. The company’s contract with Airbus also includes an option for one more satellite, which would make it Thuraya’s fifth satellite.
“Thuraya 4-NGS is the foundation for the next phase of our growth, advancing our L-band business across EMEA and Central Asia, and enabling next-generation mobile satellite solutions with increased capacity, capabilities and flexibility,” Ali shares.
“Our next-generation network will be highly flexible and agile so that we can integrate new technologies on the ground, which provide considerable edge, given the challenges and dynamics in the industry. At a time when our competitors are providing 3G capabilities, Thuraya is adopting 4G and 5G platforms.”
HEAD-ON Despite its internal strengths, Thuraya still faces external challenges. For instance, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may threaten sources of investment, or its clients may go bankrupt.
As leader of the company, Ali aims to face these challenges head-on. Holding the simultaneous role of General Manager of Government Solutions for Yahsat, Thuraya’s parent company, Ali is able to leverage the strengths of the UAE’s leading satellite operator.
“Together with Yahsat, we are strengthening our existing channels and exploring new avenues in order to support communities, businesses and markets,” he says. Ali is also working to strengthen Thuraya’s extended network of partners, maximise productivity and discipline among the company’s teams, and develop new, innovative services for customers.
“There’s no room for complacency in this industry,” he insists. “As satellite operators, we must continue to innovate and think about new, agile business models and partnership opportunities. We are living in a revolutionary time, and we must not leave any stone unturned.”