Yahsat partners with Airbus to build Thuraya 4 satellite

Yahsat will invest $500m in building the next generation mobile telecommunications system, which is scheduled to go live in 2024

Al Yah Satellite Communications (Yahsat) – the satellite operator owned by Mubadala Investment Company – announced a partnership with aerospace firm Airbus on Thursday to build Thuraya 4-NGS, the next generation mobile telecommunications system.

The latest commitment from Yahsat will see an initial investment of more than $500 million (Dh1.84 billion) that will be funded by the satellite operator and its mobile satellite services subsidiary Thuraya. The company said it is planning to invest more in the coming years.

Based on the all-electric Airbus Eurostar Neo Platform, Thuraya 4-NGS is scheduled to go live in 2024.

“Thuraya 4-NGS is a key milestone in our ongoing mission to provide advanced yet affordable satellite solutions with levels of performance, reliability and security at the leading edge of today’s technology,” said Khaled Al Qubaisi, chairman of Yahsat’s board of directors and chief executive of Mubadala’s Aerospace, Renewables & ICT platform.

“The Dh2bn commitment underscores our position as a market leader, pioneer and disruptor. We are creating a multipurpose and flexible satellite ecosystem that is attuned for growth and future diversification,” he said.

Thuraya 4-NGS will deliver “higher capabilities and flexibility” while increasing coverage across Europe, Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East. It will enable next generation mobility solutions for all customers, including defence, government and enterprise.

This programme is a “culmination of many years of business development efforts by both Thuraya and Yahsat” and it will be funded by the companies, said Yahsat chief executive Masood Mahmood, while speaking to journalists virtually.

“Yahsat has been here for 13 years … [it] has a strong financial position and balance sheet to complement the project. Thuraya also has a great ability to generate cash, but it just needed a shot in the arm … that it has got from Yahsat with support from our shareholder Mubadala,” Mr Mahmood said.

As part of an agreement with Airbus, there is an option to build an additional satellite identical to Thuraya 4-NGS to strengthen the coverage and capabilities across the Asia-Pacific region.

“This move has come at a right time … potential and opportunities are huge … our combined solid financials and future possibilities make us extremely confident,” Mr Mahmood said.

After acquiring a majority stake in Thuraya in 2018, Yahsat became the sixth-largest satellite operator in the world in terms of revenue. Thuraya’s two satellites, serving over 160 countries, have expanded the group’s satellite fleet to five.

Yahsat said the new project is a major milestone towards transforming Thuraya and rolling out its next-generation system. It includes complete overhaul of Thuraya’s space and ground platforms, and enabling a new set of services, products and solutions.

Thuraya, which has more than 250,000 subscribers, said the new capabilities will give it a headway across many strategic product lines such as maritime, the Internet of Things and data solutions, while reinforcing its strengths in the mobile satellite services (MSS) voice market.

“We are diversifying … shifting from MSS solutions to more data-centric and solution-ready platforms,” said Ali Al Hashemi, chief executive of Thuraya and general manager of Yahsat Government Solutions.

The MSS retail market is estimated to reach $8bn worldwide by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 6 per cent, said Mr Hashemi.

“We are only in the beginning of the mobile data revolution. Going forward, Thuraya will focus on capturing the biggest share of the mobile satellite data service industry,” he added.

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