Telephone services only arrived in the country in the early 1960’s, connecting Abu Dhabi with Dubai, if only through the cumbersome process of pre-booking a call through the operator. Such was the pace of technology that by the 1970s, the telephone network of the new United Arab Emirates was the most advanced in the Arab world, with direct dialling possible across all seven emirates.
The next stage was this monster dish, officially opened by Sheikh Zayed, the President of the UAE, in April 1977. Built at the foot of Jebel Al Ashqar in Ras Al Khaimah, this became part of a network satelitte communication ground stations in the country, with others in Abu Dhabi and Jebel Ali.
Together they formed part of Intelsat, an intergovernmental organisation that provides communication in 149 countries. Within 20 years, the number of paid minutes passing through Intelsat’s satellites had risen from less than 10 million in 1976 to half a billion by 1996.
* James Langton