Operators Satellite

Arabsat’s new 7A software-defined satellite to be deployed in 2023

Based on Thales Alenia Space’s Inspire platform, the 7A will ensure more efficient use of spectrum and empower Arabsat to offer more flexible solutions to clients.
Arabsat 7A will join 5A and 6A at its data hotspot at 30.5°E. Photo credit: Thales Alenia Space

Earlier this year, MENA satellite operator, Arabsat, signed a contract with Thales Alenia Space to build Arabsat7A, a fully flexible Software-Defined Satellite (SDS) based on the Space Inspire (INstant SPace In-orbit REconfiguration) platform by Thales Alenia Space.

The contract places Arabsat in a special league with those geostationary satellite operators that have chosen this technology to transition from traditional bentpipe GEO satellites to the highly agile and adaptable SDSs, which are expected to change the face of the geostationary satcom industry. The Space Inspire platform will enable seamless telecom mission and services reconfiguration of the Arabsat-7A satellite, instant in-orbit adjustment to broadband connectivity demand, and superior video broadcasting performance while maximising the effective use of satellite resources.

Arabsat 7A will join 6A and 5A at its data hotspot at 30.5E. It will replace the bulk of the existing C and Ku-band capacity on Arabsat 5A as this satellite reaches end-of-life to ensure a seamless transition for customers and partners. It will also offer ample high-throughput Ku-band capacity to help the operator expand its services into several verticals to enhance its portfolio of products and solutions over the Middle East, Africa and beyond, to parts of Europe.

“Following a lengthy and rigorous evaluation of the various products currently available on the market, Arabsat decided to go with the Space Inspire platform and entrust Thales Alenia Space, whom we have partnered with for well over four decades on several programmes,” commented Dr. Badr N. Alsuwaidan, CTO of Arabsat.

“This programme is fully aligned with Arabsat’s new transformation strategy, which is aimed at bringing Arabsat closer to its loyal customers to ensure sustainable growth for the satcom business in the region as well as partnering with governments and enterprises in various countries to bridge the digital divide and connect the unconnected which has become synonymous with economic prosperity and people empowerment.”

Dr. Badr N. Alsuwaidan, CTO of Arabsat, says the new software-defined satellite will enable Arabsat to offer flexible options to its clients.

Elaborating further, Alsuwaidan said: “With our beams, we can adjust to our customers’ needs and tailor our service to their requirements based on where they are and the specific needs they have. On this basis, we can provide more capacity to certain customers in some geographical locations. We can be more flexible and customer oriented. In addition, customer demands change over time, which means there may be times when they require more capacity and other times, when they require less.”

With the MENA region undergoing dramatic changes and many areas undergoing rapid development, the need for telecom services is at its peak.

“In Saudi Arabia, places like Neom and some cities in the GCC are experiencing massive growth. Neom, for instance, is seeing accelerated development and requires a lot of services that by default need higher capacity. We are looking to address the requirements in these areas and are working with our partners and service providers to provide more managed service to our customers, alongside traditional services,” he added.

Arabsat 7A is expected to replace the bulk of the existing C and Ku-band capacity on Arabsat 5A as this satellite reaches the end of its life. 7A will offer ample high-throughput Ku-band capacity to help Arabsat expand its services into several verticals to enhance its portfolio of products and solutions over the Middle East, Africa and beyond, to parts of Europe.

“This satellite ensures more efficient use of spectrum, which is what the ITU regulation stipulates and towards which all of us are working. With it, coverage of the MENA region will include a lot of growing cities and developing areas in Africa, where there is a lot of need for telecommunication services.

Wael Butti, Chief Commercial Officer, Arabsat and Arabsat CEO

One of the reasons why satellites are a better option in rural areas is because terrestrial services require a larger population to justify the cost of infrastructural deployment and time taken to implement.

“Satellite is a more efficient solution, and we serve several different verticals like hospitals, enterprises, oil and gas, industrial areas and so on,” explains Alsuwaidan.

Wael Butti, VP, Chief Commercial Officer, Arabsat added: “This new technology will help us to develop several new products but also offer a lot of flexibility to the market. We now know what our clients are looking for something like the 7A, which will play a big role in telecommunications.”

Arabsat is also looking to implement a service for 5G backhauling, Butti confided. “This will help the GSM operators here cover the whole country for 5G,” he stated, adding that the satellite operator works with GSM operators, VSA specialists and others to ensure that between them, the companies are able to complement each other’s services and offer people complete country coverage.