Thuraya Chief Executive Samer Halawi's Thuraya vs Inmarsat sketch was a hit at this year's UAE embassy reception in Washington, D.C. Halawi will now be relocating to Washington for an undisclosed job after six years with Thuraya. Credit: UAE Embassy Thuraya Chief Executive Samer Halawi’s Thuraya vs Inmarsat sketch was a hit at this year’s UAE embassy reception in Washington, D.C. Halawi will now be relocating to Washington for an undisclosed job after six years with Thuraya. Credit: UAE Embassy


PARIS — Samer Halawi has resigned as chief executive of mobile satellite services provider Thuraya Telecommunications of Dubai in what he said was an amicable departure that had nothing to do with a conflict over strategy within Thuraya.

“There is another opportunity that has been knocking on my door for awhile know and I finally made a decision that I want to take advantage of it,” Halawi said March 21.

In what will come as a surprise to those attending the United Arab Emirates embassy soiree in Washington during Satellite 2017 — where Halawi created a sensation with a satellite telephone-focused imitation of the Oscars ceremony award winner flub — he said he had submitted his resignation in February.

“I had to leave with a bang,” Halawi joked, saying more seriously: “I was working on the transition until just now. I have been with Thuraya for six years and it’s time for me to move on. It was not an easy decision for me and it took a long time to make it.”

As of March 21 Thuraya had made no announcement about the management change beyond saying that the company’s former network operations chief, Ahmed Ali Al Shamsi, had been appointed acting chief executive.

Halawi declined to disclose his new job beyond saying that it was in the satellite sector. “You will be hearing from me. I wanted to open a burger place, but I hope people still have a little bit of faith in me for satellites. It’s a very exciting opportunity. For me to leave at this moment, it would have to be something in which I strongly believe for the future. It’s an exciting opportunity.”

Before joining Thuraya in 2011, Halawi worked for London-based Inmarsat.

He said he would be moving to Washington, D.C., for is new job. Among other fast-growing companies in the Washington area is startup global satellite internet provider OneWeb.

Thuraya strategy unclear

Thuraya did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the management change. The company has been weighing a new investment strategy as it positions itself for a broadband-dominated mobile satellite market.

Exactly how Thuraya will respond to the new market challenges — remaining an L-band service from geostationary-orbiting satellites, leasing Ka-band capacity or making some other strategic move — remains to be seen.

Halawi’s Oscar performance at Satellite 2017

In retrospect, given that he had already submitted his resignation, Halawi should be given his own acting award for his March 8 comic performance at the UAE embassy.

“I want to announce the Thought Innovation Award for 2017 in the satellite sector,” he said to the audience. “May I have the envelope please?”

A large envelope is produced. “And the award for the best satellite equipment of the year….” He opens the envelope to find an Inmarsat ISAT phone. “Inmarsat!? This cannot be right! Did you give me the wrong envelope?”

Halawi reads the back of the envelope: “Wait: It says: Worst handset ever produced.” He throws the phone onto the floor, opens a second envelope and says: “The winner is the Thuraya phone!”

The chief executives of the other mobile satellite services providers — Inmarsat, Globalstar, Iridium Communications — have a common bond in their fondness for Jack Russell terriers.

Only Halawi didn’t have one — a concession to the fact that the Dubai climate would not be favorable to the dog. In response, the other CEOs purchased for him a pair of socks with a Jack Russell motif.

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Peter B. de Selding
Peter B. de Selding
Peter de Selding is a Co-Founder and editor for He started SpaceIntelReport in 2017 after 26 years as the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews where he covered the commercial satellite, launch and the international space businesses. He is widely considered the preeminent reporter in the space industry and is a must read for space executives. Follow Peter @pbdes