There are plenty of good things to look back on at Thuraya this year, even if 2015 has been a difficult year for the industry as a whole.
We launched a number of groundbreaking products, services and platforms in line with our long-term ambition to offer something really different at great value.
Launched right at the end of 2014, XT-LITE became the world’s most rapidly adopted satellite phone as sales rocketed through 2015. XT-LITE creates a new market segment with its potent combination of value and quality, and we have seen minutes of use stand at 10 times the levels of our previous flagship product, the Thuraya XT. There’s real demand out there.
Similarly, we launched XT-PRO, the world’s most advanced satellite phone. XT-PRO stands up to everything the world can throw at it. It’s consistent and reliable, rugged and robust. It resists dust and jet water, and it is shock proof with an uninterrupted signal. It lets you receive call notifications even when it’s in your pocket with your antenna stowed.
SatSleeve brought the Bring Your Own Device concept to the satellite market in 2013. SatSleeve is still the simplest, fastest way to own a satellite smartphone; but we made it even better – twice over, in fact – in 2015. First, with SatSleeve+, you get an even better sound quality routed through the smartphone, and a universal adaptor that lets you switch between various iOS and Android smartphone models.
Then there’s SatSleeve Hotspot – a portable satellite Wi-Fi hotspot that lets users make calls, send emails and check apps indoors, with the hotspot placed outside or at a window. We’re offering innovation and creativity, and an understanding of what our customers need. Users can choose a Thuraya SIM for coverage in 160 countries, or a GSM SIM card from more than 360 Thuraya roaming partners worldwide.
We then announced a distribution deal with UK-based global online retailer, Expansys, for the new SatSleeve products, which give retailers an exciting product to complement their smartphone offerings. As we now continue to expand our retail and online presence, we will develop create more products to serve new segments, as we extend our reach into consumer markets.
In 2014, Thuraya and Airtel Africa announced the launch of Thuraya’s mobile satellite products and services, spanning 12 countries in Africa including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia. Airtel Africa’s customers now have access to voice communication, messaging, social media apps and broadband internet through Thuraya’s satellite solutions.
Our recent agreement with Airtel Ghana to deliver 100% connectivity through both mobile satellite and terrestrial coverage is a great example of how our partnership has progressed. Airtel Ghana’s enterprise team now deliver a full range of our satellite products including SatSleeve+, XT-LITE, XT-PRO and Thuraya IP+ broadband terminals.
Our technology saves and improves lives; and it can now help bring Ghanaians closer to one another, and to the outside world. Following our agreement to help bridge the digital divide for both individuals and businesses, Airtel Ghana now offers a bouquet of our services and products under communication, connectivity and collaborative solutions.
The maritime sector is very important for us, and we offer a clear choice in a market where end users have been looking for a true alternative to what has been on the market before. The innovative Thuraya Calling Card is a dynamic market solution that reinforces value-for-money, convenience and versatility, for individual users and business managers.
Calling Card allows an entire crew to use their individual Calling Cards to make personal calls from a single phone, and it keeps business and personal calls separate. It’s great for crew welfare; and it allows managers and ship owners to monitor budgets effectively, as usage is charged to the Calling Card and not to a telephone account.
Our 75MB maritime broadband bundle offers flexibility and value-for-money too. These voice and data bundles with zero up-front fees on hardware delivers the best quality at the best rates. So ship owners and managers now have a real choice. The bundles are designed for those whose previous options were to buy a low-end plan, while having to use expensive out-of-bundle data, or a 250MB plan from other suppliers which inevitably ends up being wasted. It’s built to fit people’s individual needs.
Our three broadband bundles range from SIM-only, to Orion IP and SF2500 hardware bundles – available on both 12 and 24-month contracts. These innovative packages are built for end-users at a time when the maritime communications landscape is experiencing rapid change and when the need for quality data connectivity at cheaper rates is of vital importance. The new bundle plans complement existing Thuraya plans, which offer flexible contracts and unlimited plans – ensuring best-in-class rates for broadband data.
When Thuraya’s CEO, Samer Halawi, was named Satellite Executive of the Year at this year’s Asia-Pacific Satellite Communications Awards in Seoul, South Korea, it showed that Thuraya’s success is being recognized. This is very encouraging, because we want to make a difference in how we operate our business and a difference for others: Thuraya’s purpose to save and improve lives is a humbling responsibility, and it’s one we take very seriously.
On this note, it is important to help relief workers and first responders to connect and coordinate efforts during emergencies. That’s why we donated satellite phones to the International Telecommunications Union at the start of the year, as part of our commitment to help strengthen response and recovery mechanisms.
More recently, Thuraya signed a Crisis Connectivity Charter in Geneva under the umbrella of the EMEA Satellite Operators Association (ESOA) and the Global VSAT Forum (GVF). This Charter takes us one step further towards working with governments and NGOs to deliver secure, reliable, and easily deployable, user-friendly solutions in the event of any disaster. That is an important step to take.
We also launched DigiMed, a telemedicine solution that assists teams working in remote areas. The cutting-edge DigiMed kit allows crucial face-to-face consultations between patients and doctors through ‘real-time’ teleconferencing enabled by Thuraya’s portfolio of broadband terminals. It is ideal for workers in the Relief, Marine and Enterprise sectors.
Thuraya has also created a new Developer Program that expands on our ecosystem plan and which generates new opportunities for partners. It will provide easy access to hardware and software development platforms along with the required documentation and support. It also aims to shorten the development cycle for Thuraya’s partners to get products to market faster, with an emphasis on creating more affordable and easy to use end-user products.
Earlier this year, the EMEA Satellite Operators Association welcomed operators from Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States into its organization. This move highlights the importance of leading a coordinated and impactful response to the global challenges and opportunities we face – a critical digital divide, an increased demand for rich media video content and an increased take-up of mobile data services. Thuraya believes in the importance of operators coming together to preserve and secure the future of our sector and to define our shared visions and goals.
We are developing our expansionary plans too, increasing the scope of our business. We increased our geographical reach by launching Starlight, our new gateway in Cyprus, earlier this year, and we now look forward to launching our quasi-global M2M network with ViaSat later this year. Both of these initiatives will help generate new applications and opportunities for Thuraya and our partners. Concept work on our next generation planning is nearing completion too, and this will bring opportunities through new coverage and capabilities, efficiencies and greater scale.
As we embark on 2016, we look forward to making several new and exciting announcements as Thuraya continues to make its mark in the New Year with new products in new segments and with new partners.
Bilal El Hamoui
Chief Commercial Officer