UAE’s Thuraya working on next-gen satellite technology

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Thuraya Organization

By now, it should be as simple as taking something off the shelf to bring a satellite together for the UAE’s Thuraya.

But Adnan Al Muhairi, Deputy Chief Technical Officer of Thuraya’s parent company, Mubadala’s Yahsat, says it’s not even remotely like that. Thuraya has to collaborate with a network of manufacturers and suppliers over the next few years to bring the components of its next-generation satellite together.

Mr. Al Muhairi said, “The satellite payload is manufactured in Portsmouth, UK. Then we have the satellite avionics manufactured in Toulouse, France, and we have many other components such as the satellite reflector, which is manufactured in Florida.”

“All these separate manufacturers then deliver their products to Toulouse where the entire satellite is integrated.”

Airbus was selected by Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat) to develop Thuraya 4-NGS, the next-generation L-band telecommunications satellite of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Once it’s done, with the help of a launch vehicle, the satellite is sent off to the launch site from where it is sent into space. “At the moment, we haven’t selected one yet – that will happen in the coming months,” said Al Muhairi.

New Mobile phones

Thuraya is working on designs for the next smartphone generation and drawing up a launch schedule for its next phone. “We see that our existing handsets’ demand is very healthy,” said Al Muhairi.

The organization has satellite phones priced from $408.36 (Dh1,500) to $816.73 (Dh3,000). High prices and poor internet speeds have in the past kept customers from making the transition to satellite phones, but that could now be about to change.

According to the officials, “There’s always going to be somewhat of a gap between satellite phones and cellular phones. However, with the next-generation system, we will have the ability to narrow that gap and these (have) higher data rates, easier to use applications and bring the cost down as well.”

5G booster

In all its populated areas, the UAE plans to provide 5G coverage by 2025, and satellite networks will play a major role in it. During the COVID-19 lockdown, when students and staff from remote areas were stuck at home, satellite technology’s true value is revealed. “They needed to attend schools, work, etc. and Yahsat went and met their connectivity needs in days,” said Al Muhairi. “If you try to do that with ground infrastructure, you’re talking months or years to be able to make it happen.”

“Our business team is constantly engaged with customers – we have regular meetings, both at the service provider level and with major customers. We set up a marathon of meetings with as many customers as we could get to specifically understand their needs for the future… and on which we built our system requirements”, concluded Mr. Al Muhairi


UAE-based Thuraya is a regional mobile-satellite service provider. The company operates two geosynchronous satellites and provides telecommunications coverage in more than 161 countries in Europe, the Middle East, North, Central and East Africa, Asia and Australia. And the company provides communications solutions for energy, government, broadcast media, maritime, military, aerospace and humanitarian work organizations.