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Diamond in the sky, Part II

Diamond in the sky, Part II

The UAE is set to launch it first satellite into space this month. And when it does, the region will never be same again. Part II in a series

November 6, 2008 9:39 by

Ian Munroe

The D-word. For Yahsat, it’s all about dual-use applications – finding the right balance of satellite services for government bodies versus commercial clients. “We believe we might be stronger in the government and enterprise side in the UAE, rather than the end-user side,” says Jassem Mohammed al-Zaabi, the company’s CEO. “The demand is undeniable,” he adds. “How can you come up with the right formula? This is what we’re trying to find out.”

He’s right, the demand is impressive. According to Web-traffic tracking site, the number of people surfing the ‘net from the Middle East has grown by more than 1,000 percent since 2000. Satellite TV channels in the region have also multiplied many times over, to more than 300, over that time. If you throw in the rest of Yahsat’

s coverage area, which includes growing markets in Africa, Europe and South-West Asia, you can see why they might be starting a lucrative business.

The tough part is on the supply side. In this neck of the woods alone, Yahsat will have to contend with two major satellite carriers: Nilesat in Egypt, and Arabsat in Saudi Arabia. “There’s a lot of competition, not only in the Middle East but all over the place,” says Rodger Baker, director of Asian analysis at Stratfor, a US-based intelligence company. “Everyone is trying to get their own communications satellites up.”

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