Internet users in the Emirates now have a third choice of provider with the launch of a satellite-based broadband service.
YahClick, a unit of Mubadala's Yahsat, launched its satellite broadband offering in the UAE yesterday, offering an alternative to Etisalat and du.
The local telecoms firms SkyStream and Safa Telecom will distribute and market the services in the country. While the UAE has one of the world's most robust fibre-optics networks, there are still some remote areas that do not have access to fibre and so lack internet connectivity. This service is intended to provide coverage for all parts of the country.
"YahClick was designed with a specific mission in mind, to provide high-speed, reliable internet connectivity to individuals, companies and communities, no matter how challenging or demanding the market," said Masood Sharif Mahmood, the deputy chief executive of Yahsat.
The satellite has coverage in 28 countries across the Middle East, Africa and Central and South West Asia, covering one billion people. Already YahClick is live in 11 countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and South Africa, with the rest set to go online by the end of next year.
"The main objective is to address the gap we have seen in many countries [where] terrestrial infrastructure is not available everywhere," said Shawkat Ahmed, the chief commercial officer at Yahsat and chairman of YahClick.
"Our focus is mainly on business users, but we also offer services to home users who may not have access to reliable, cost effective broadband."
Business users can buy monthly packages starting from Dh600 to Dh2,500. Consumer packages cost from Dh220 to Dh700.
"The launch of YahClick moves us one stage further in the TRA's [Telecommunications Regulatory Authority's] mission to safeguard competition in the sector, while protecting the interests of customers, encouraging investment and empowering the UAE with a highly trained and skilled local workforce," said Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, TRA's acting director general. "The achievements of Yahsat and the launch of YahClick are clearly establishing the UAE as a satellite industry hub."
YahClick said its services would complement both Etisalat and du's broadband services rather than compete with them.
"Our current focus is on enterprise. It is not designed to compete with the terrestrial services. It is meant to be complementary. The UAE is very well fibre-connected. We have introduced YahClick as a back-up in the main city areas," said Mr Mahmood.
YahClick is offering download speeds of up to 15 megabits per second and upload speeds of 2Mbps. The company is focusing on small to medium-sized businesses and hotels to provide them with satellite broadband as a back-up solution in the face of cable cuts that have become a frequent occurrence in the region.
Oil and gas, agriculture, construction sites and government agencies on special projects are also being targeted where fibre broadband coverage is limited.
Yahsat has launched two satellites since its inception six years ago, the Y1A in 2011 and the Y1B in April 2012. YahClick is beamed through the Y1B satellite. So far uptake has been positive where the services have been, Mr Mahmood said. "We have more than 20,000 terminals on the ground in the initial markets. This will only go up. The most important thing is the adaptation of customers. Once they get used to YahClick in terms of availability, pricing and ease of installation, they will be hooked to the market."