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Keeping Communities and Businesses Connected Throughout COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond
By Sulaiman Al Ali, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Thuraya


The world is witnessing a surge in demand for connectivity as a boom in remote working drives usage. How are satellite operators addressing this need?

Thuraya is deploying its mobile satellite services, network resources and technical expertise to support communities and businesses across multiple sectors, enabling them to stay connected and continue to grow. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that rapid transmission of information is crucial.

Developed countries have the communications infrastructure to do this in real time, particularly in metropolitan areas. But what about people in remote areas or in countries with poor or no infrastructure? For them, staying connected is vital to keep people safe and the wheels of the economy turning.

Our support for vertical sectors is diverse, spanning government, maritime, energy, enterprise, media, leisure and relief. As a subsidiary of Yahsat, we are able to provide solutions integrating fixed and mobile satellite technologies so that we are able to guarantee anywhere/anytime availability and resilience, maximum capabilities, flexibility, and industry-leading security.

Connecting Teams On Land

Thuraya has an outstanding track record in developing satellite phones for use on land. We were first to introduce dual-mode handsets, converging SATCOM and GSM technologies, first to introduce pre-paid services and the first satellite company to offer worldwide roaming services.

To date, Thuraya has sold more than 1 million voice hardware globally, and currently have 4 handsets and 2 satellite smartphone adapters in our portfolio: X5-Touch, XT-PRO DUAL, XT-LITE, XT-PRO, SatSleeve+ and SatSleeve Hotspot. Together they make us the market leader under our coverage area.

We have hard wired innovation into our handsets. Thuraya X5-Touch is the world’s first Android satellite phone and is the first touchscreen phone in the satellite communication industry. This immediately gives it a familiar look and feel for millions of cell phone users..

The X5-Touch is dual mode, so they can switch effortlessly between satellite and terrestrial telecom services. Encryption and walk-and-talk capabilities provide added security and mobility. Thuraya X5-Touch is also the most rugged phone in the MSS industry, with IP67 and MIL standard.

Life-Saving Data Comms

Thuraya has provided relief communications to first responders and aid workers in emergencies and humanitarian crises — notably during the Ebola virus outbreaks in West Africa from 2014 to 2016. Inevitably, a high percentage of crisis communications involves the exchange of data, or the use of high-bandwidth applications.

Telemedicine technologies, in particular, can play a vital role in direct patient care during a humanitarian crisis. Doctors use them to perform diagnostics, administer prescribed treatments and offer advice to colleagues in remote locations.

Thuraya offers all the data tools users need, with a wide range of robust, reliable land data terminals for use in static locations or on the move. Thuraya IP Voyager, for example, has been designed by Hughes for easy installation in any vehicle. It is a reliable, high-quality and affordable vehicular satellite terminal designed for a wide range of mission-critical on-the-move operations such as border patrol, defense and disaster response. The terminal enables users to collaborate reliably and efficiently with colleagues using video, data, and VoIP to achieve mission critical tasks.

Staying Connected At Sea

Thuraya has been developing its maritime portfolio for over a decade, but progress has accelerated rapidly in the 3 past years with the introduction of both VSAT and new L-band services. Today, our excellent record in maritime communications is based on the sheer breadth and quality of our smart, flexible maritime portfolio. This is divided into three segments:

• SeaLite, which includes Thuraya MarineStar and other narrowband products covering Voice and SMS
• SeaPro, which includes the broadband terminals Atlas IP+ and Orion IP delivering speeds of up to 444 kbps
• OceanPro, which includes the VSAT+ service and deliver increased bandwidth capabilities by integrating Ku- and L-bands.

Thuraya MarineStar, our affordable maritime voice solution launched at the end of 2019, has already proved a best seller, especially in the Asian markets. It includes advanced two-way tracking and monitoring capabilities, so there is no need for users to invest in a separate solution to cover these features. Thuraya MarineStar was sold out within a month after its launch and first installations have been made successfully. Key applications include Geofencing, tracking, alerts and fish catch reporting.

In The Air

Thuraya’s in-flight connectivity and data-sharing solution for airborne communications is the product of first-class collaboration and innovation. Thuraya Aero was developed through Thuraya’s partnership with the Aero Group, a global consortium of industry experts, namely Cobham, SCOTTY Group, and SRT Wireless. Thuraya Aero syncs seamlessly with Thuraya’s L-band network to enable a wide range of comms from voice and low-bandwidth data to applications that demand high IP data speeds. These support beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) operations that demand flexible, affordable communications in the air, such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), border patrol and office-in-the-sky.

Thuraya Aero is now line-fit available for Airbus H145 and H135 helicopters. The aircraft will be ready to use on delivery, with voice and data connectivity fully functioning.

Machine to Machine (M2M)

Thuraya has been at the forefront of establishing automated technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) as fixtures in the satellite communications landscape. Our solutions enable highly secure real-time monitoring, management and control of remote assets and operations.

The core M2M service is ideal for real-time monitoring and control of fixed assets in remote locations via Thuraya’s L-band satellite service. Our FT2225 terminal is suited for two-way ‘IP-lite’ applications. Thuraya IP M2M supports high-throughput applications.

For users who need an M2M service that works in a fixed location or in a vehicle on the move, the T2M-DUAL service is ideal. It offers dual-mode capability that will switch seamlessly between satellite and terrestrial communications to optimize two-way connectivity options and managed costs. Users can access a web interface or a mobile app to monitor status, location and other sensor data for their assets.

A Template For The Future

Thuraya has been quick to recognize the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the future of satellite communications. This will require a concentrated focus on the needs of key vertical sectors, such as government and maritime, and on M2M and IoT. COVID-19 has caused a devastating impact, but it has also focused minds globally on what really matters: keeping people and communities safe and connected, and giving businesses the communications tools they need to continue to grow and prosper.

The author is Sulaiman Al Ali, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Thuraya.