‘We are finalising details with the contractor. It will take 31 months to build the satellite,’ Mohammed Omran, Thuraya chief executive, said on 3 July.

In late June, Thuraya announced that it had contracted the US’ Boeing Satellite System to build the third satellite at an estimated cost of $150 million-200 million. ‘The contract will be financed from Thuraya’s own resources. It [the new satellite] will be used as a back-up for Thuraya-1 and 2 and for expansion of our services,’ he said.

Thuraya has given the go-ahead for the second satellite, also built by Boeing, to be launched in January 2003. Thuraya-2 will be launched by the US’ Sea Launch at an orbital slot of 44 degrees east. ‘We will shift Thuraya-1, which is now at 44 degrees [east], to 28.5 degrees [east],’ Omran said.

Since it began providing satellite services in early 2001, Thuraya has sold about 88,720 handsets and activated 47,482 Sim cards. ‘The average revenue per user is more than double our projections,’ he said (MEED 9:2:01, Cover Story). Thuraya is also considering refinancing its debt (see Banking & Finance).