In the latest in FINN’s From The Top series, we talk to Eisa Al Shamsi from Abu Dhabi-based space company Yahsat.
Yahsat – the Al Yah Satellite Communications Company- is a fixed and mobile satellite services operator offering integrated satellite communications solutions to over 150 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South America, Asia and Australasia. It was founded in 2007 and has grown over the following decades.
Al Shamsi said the company was created with ambition and “futuristic kind of plans.” It was grown naturally with the support of the Abu Dhabi leadership. He explained: “And I’m sure you’re aware, if you recall, in 2018, where we acquired Thuriyah, they’ve been in the industry for much longer as well and they provide different sets of applications over satellites, and we kind of expanded our portfolio to kind of provide the optimum kind of solutions with a wide range of applications and solutions to our anchor customers and main kind of consumers.”
Five satellites cover two-thirds of the Earth
Yahsat has five satellites in orbit, covering two thirds of Earth. The company provides services across different geographical locations with a portfolio of services across b2b and b2c applications, including defence and government work.
Al Shamsi said while communication was the main aspect, there were additional kinds of application which could be enabled through satellites. “And this is what we are doing, said Al Shamsi, “Extending a specific kind of range for line of sight to beyond line of sight using the benefiting from the coverage of the satellite itself. We provide various command and control kind of applications and services through the satellite itself, various other kinds of services that we provide. So it’s not limited to communication. It’s a wider range of applications that we cover. So even the ISR kind of intelligence and search and rescue kind of mission could be served through the satellites, applications.”
He gave an example in South America: “In Brazil, we extended the internet over satellites through one of our commercial business units. And we do provide the same kind of broadband services across other regions as well. So it’s basically with an area that lacks infrastructure, you will be able to provide them with Internet services over satellite.”
Knowledge economy will see further developments
Yahsat will see further developments as the Middle East expands its activities as a knowledge-based economy. The company has just signed an agreement with the Tawazan Economic Council to form a new entity to focus on R&D which will not only develop, but produce specific SATCOM solutions.
Al Shamsi explained: “The focus is to own those IPRs and advanced on those IPRs to enrich the local knowledge and support the industrialisation mission that we have from our wise, kind of leadership and the directions that we have to adapt to all of us.”
With the launch of the Mars Hope project, Al Shamsi said there was a growing interest in space and science among young Emiratis. He said: “If you look at the focus on space within UAE, especially recently, it’s been kind of growing rapidly. We’ve been getting involved in various kinds of exploration missions and commercial missions at a very wide range. As I mentioned, Yahsat today owns five satellites, which the fleet consists of, and we have the sixth one, which is under development, and hopefully will be launched, inshallah, in 2024, and this is with respect to the communication satellites.”
A new generation excited by space and science
“We have some other entities like NBRC focused on Earth observation satellites and we have the Mars Probe and we have the astronauts’ programme. So things are getting very excited and yes, the new generation is kind of getting extremely excited about this wave of scientific kind of approach.”
During the From The Top series, we’ve asked leaders of industries around the world what it is that that wakes you up in the middle of the night? Al Shamsi said he needed to stay asleep to preserve his energy for the rapid changes within the UAE. He said: “To be frank, nothing wakes me up. Just think, we have an extremely progressing country, fast and rapid progressing country. And the only thing that I’m trying to focus on and I think many others strive to focus on is to, to adapt to this and try to keep up to the expectation and be able to achieve and advance in those industries.”