Yahsat COO Khalid Al Kaf shares the satcom giant's future-forward strategy
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Interview: Yahsat’s Khalid Al Kaf shares the satcom giant’s future-forward strategy

Interview: Yahsat’s Khalid Al Kaf shares the satcom giant’s future-forward strategy

To stay competitive, Yahsat is focused on innovation in satellite technology, service offerings, and operational efficiency, says the satcom firm’s COO

Interview with Khalid Al Kaf - Yahsat Chief Operations Officer Image Supplied

Tell us about Yahsat’s key business objectives. How do they drive the company’s growth and success in the satellite communications market?

Based in the UAE, Yahsat is a publicly listed company on Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and a subsidiary of Mubadala Investment Company.

Yahsat was established in 2007 as well as the establishment of its mobility arm Thuraya in 1997, represented the early steps in the UAE’s effort to venture into the space sector, which is witnessing rapid growth over the past few years. We offer multi-mission satellite services in more than 150 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South America, Asia and Australasia. Through a fleet of five satellites, we reach more than 80 per cent of the world’s population, enabling critical communications including broadband, video broadcasting, backhauling and mobile voice and data solutions offered to a wide range of customers including land, maritime and aero platforms to consumers, governments and enterprises.

Our businesses consist of Yahsat Government Solutions, Thuraya, YahClick (powered by Hughes), YahLink and Yahlive.

We are currently in an advanced stage to launch the Thuraya 4-NGS, during the first half of 2024 and this next generation telecommunications system for Thuraya is due to enter service during 2025.

We have multiple key business objectives that drive Yahsat’s growth and success in the industry. These include:
Connectivity: One of our primary objectives is to provide reliable and high-quality connectivity solutions to underserved and remote areas in its coverage regions. This includes delivering broadband internet access to areas that lack traditional terrestrial infrastructure. Our success in numerous countries across the world are a clear testament on how our satellite enabled connectivity solutions can play an active role in driving positive change in the lives of people through empowering educational, telemedicine and critical government services in Africa, for instance.

Expansion: We are always striving to expand our satellite fleet and coverage areas, allowing us to reach more customers and offer services to an even wider audience. This expansion will involve launching T4, and constant investment in advanced technologies. We have also received a mandate from the UAE government in September that includes the procurement of two new satellites, Al Yah 4 and Al Yah 5. One of Yahsat’s strategic pillars is how to achieve sustainable growth, we constantly identify organic and non-organic growth opportunities in multiple key markets that will support this ambition.

Diversification of services: In addition to broadband internet, we offer a range of communication services, including secure government and enterprise communication solutions, VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) services, and broadcasting services. This diversification helps Yahsat cater to various sectors and customer needs.

Innovation: To stay competitive in the rapidly evolving satellite communications industry, Yahsat emphasises innovation in satellite technology, service offerings, and operational efficiency. For example, A global shift to connecting “things” is boosting the demand for IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) applications using satellite systems that can provide ubiquitous coverage and enable key plays such as mass asset tracking, monitoring and agriculture uses.

Yahsat’s recent investment in eSAT Global, Astrocast and the procurement of the T4-NGS satellite, currently under construction, will enable numerous new applications in this space.

Customer focus: Yahsat’s success relies on understanding, meeting, and exceeding the communication needs of its diverse customer base. This involves providing customised solutions for different industries and regions.

Read: UAE: Yahsat receives Dhs18.7bn govt mandate for satellite related services

How are technologies such as AI and Generative AI playing a role in Yahsat’s digital transformation?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Generative AI are having a significant impact on operations’ management and day-to-day business across various industries, including the space and satellite industry.

AI technologies, such as machine learning and data analytics, are being used to optimise efficiency and safety of operations at Yahsat. This includes predictive maintenance, resource allocation, supply chain management, risk management, as well as mission planning.

The digital transformation Yahsat is undergoing also includes utilising the capabilities of Generative AI that can aid in designing and prototyping, generating novel satellite configurations, leading to innovations in satellite design and functionality, virtual simulation, and optimization for factors such as coverage area, communication reliability, and data throughput.

As a forward-thinking company in the satcom industry, we are always exploring and adopting the implementation of different AI technologies that will pioneer new precedents, enhance our operations, and ultimately provide our customers around the world with world-class services.

What other technologies is Yahsat using to augment productivity?

Last year, we announced a collaboration with Hub71 as an innovation partner to accelerate startup technology adoption in satellite communications. Through this partnership, we are working with founders in the Hub71 community to advance technological innovations that support the development of the UAE’s mobile satellite capabilities and the country’s overall tech-ecosystem.

Currently, a Hub71-based startup, Mental VR, a virtual reality (VR) software development company is providing its state-of-the-art VR technology to deliver dynamic and seamless training programs for Yahsat personnel in remote locations further enhancing productivity.

The wider partnership with Hub71 will identify technology startups that have the potential to advance the UAE’s space industry and strengthen satellite communication technologies. We are working collaboratively towards building national capabilities and contributing to the UAE’s economic growth for the next 50 years. Hub71 startups are working alongside global experts from Yahsat to receive strategic mentorship, gaining insights into satellite technologies and the space industry.

Startups at Hub71 will also be able to explore commercial opportunities as part of Yahsat’s satellite and technology programme.

Tell us about the Oracle Cloud Applications implementation process. What were some of the key challenges faced and how were they addressed?

Yahsat’s ‘Majarah’ platform leverages Oracle Cloud-based Fusion ERP and has been successful in streamlining the group’s business operations to augment data accuracy, security, and compliance.

As part of its digital strategy, Yahsat now has a one-stop ecosystem in place to manage all its processes, while providing decision-makers real-time visibility of their business impact.

The new solution has elevated Yahsat’s overall efficiency and productivity, thereby accelerating the group’s growth and market performance.

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