Thuraya’s partnership with Panasonic Avionics-owned ITC Global adds Ku-band VSAT broadband to Thuraya’s L-band production line. Credit: Thuraya

PARIS — Mobile satellite services provider Thuraya Telecommunications Co. unveiled a new piece of its strategy under the ownership of fleet owner Yahsat, announcing a global partnership in maritime VSAT service with Panasonic Avionics’s ITC Global.

The agreement will give Thuraya access to a global market for Ku-band maritime VSAT applications, giving the company a much-needed revenue stream beyond narrowband L-band service. ITC Global has access to Panasonics’ global fleet of Ku-band satellite capacity, used mainly for airline in-flight connectivity.

Thuraya competitor Inmarsat of London has adopted a similar strategy, but with Ka-band broadband the goal, not Ku-band. Inmarsat has signed up Ku-band VSAT customers and offered them a pathway to Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Ka-band service, which is global, whose  service is bundled with Inmarsat’s heritage L-band capacity.

Inmarsat has ordered new L-band satellites. Thuraya has yet to disclose its L-band strategy beyond the current spacecraft, which are nearing retirement.

United Arab Emirates-based Yahsat purchased Thuraya in August 2018 and named Ali Al Hashemi, formerly head of Yahsat Government Solutions, as chief executive.

Panasonic purchased ITC Global in August 2015, reasoning that it could amortize its purchase of global Ku-band satellite bandwidth by adding maritime customers without requiring new satellite capacity.

Competitor Global Eagle Entertainment used the same thinking in its purchase of maritime connectivity provider EMC.

That logic has since been challenged by the difficulties airline-connectivity providers have had in developing a profitable business model with airlines at a time of tremendous competition in that market.

Thuraya is offering VSAT+ as a global service, with Ku-band VSAT broadband connectivity provided alongside Thuraya’s own L-band capacity in areas covered by Thuraya’s fleet, here shown in darker blue. Credit: Thuraya

Industry officials have speculated that Panasonic would be open to selling ITC as it reviews its connectivity strategy.

Whether Yahsat/Thuraya would be open to a purchase of this kind is unclear, especially since the maritime market is also proving difficult with Ku- and Ka-band broadband VSAT solutions competing with upgraded L-band coming from Iridium Communications’s Certus products, which are debuting this year on Iridium’s second-generation constellation of satellites; and Inmarsat’s future L-band satellites.

“In the challenging maritime market, end users are looking for… higher bandwidth, ease of use, innovation and value-added features that drive operational efficiency,” Thuraya Chief Commercial Officer Shawkat Ahmed said in a Feb. 25 statement on the ITC partnership. “VSAT+ meets these needs by offering an integrated solution that combines reliability, resilience and high bandwidth.”

Kevin Franciotti, vice president for global channel partnerships at ITC Global, said ITC’s access to the extensive satellite bandwidth at Panasonic Avionics “present an opportunity for long-term growth.”