UAE to put satellites into orbit


By Samia Badih

Yahsat, a Mubadala subsidiary, is on track to launch two satellites in 2011 (Y1A and Y1B), making it the region’s first satellite operator to launch a hybrid satellite system.

UAE SatelliteThe satellites will provide customised satellite solutions for government entities such as the UAE Armed Forces and the Abu Dhabi Police, as well as the commercial sector.

Rashid Al Gafri, general manager of Yah Service, a Yahsat subsidiary, told Gulf News yesterday that the first satellite (Y1A) will be launched at the end of next month and the second (Y1B) will be put in orbit at the end of this year.

In 2007, Yahsat signed a $1.6 billion (Dh5.87 billion) contract with EADS/Thales Alenia Space for two satellites, their related network management systems and the ground segment.

Later in 2008, Yahsat signed an agreement with the UAE Armed Forces to provide secure satellite communications within the UAE. Part of their delivery to the UAE Armed Forces is to provide two satellites and ground terminals that the armed forces can use in and outside the country, Al Ghafri said.

Ground terminals

“We’re going to provide them with capacity on the satellite with the ground terminals that their troops can use within the UAE and outside the UAE,” he said.

Al Gafri said that there was a big demand in the market for such a service.

“There’s a shortage on the capacity on the satellite, especially in this region,” he said.

However, once these satellites are up and running they will provide government entities with more security, he explained.

“What we are doing right now [is that] we are leasing capacity from a commercial satellite operator, which does not give us the security, reliability and availability,” he said.

Broadband technology

From the commercial perspective, the first satellite will provide broadcasting technology and GSM back-calling for a telecom operator. The second satellite will have broadband technology which is “internet over satellite,” Al Gafri added.

“Both satellites will have a government payload.”

From the commercial perspective, the first satellite will provide broadcast technology and GSM backhauling, he said.

However, the internet apsect will be provided through a service partner.

“[In] most rural areas that don’t have the infrastructure, especially in Africa where they don’t have fibre optics, and people want to use the internet, they can buy this terminal from our service provider,” he said.