Al Yah 3
Al Yah 3 satellite. Credit: Yahsat artist's concept

PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Yahsat of the United Arab Emirates on Nov. 17 said it was expanding its relationship with broadband hardware and service provider Hughes Network Systems with a multiyear contract for broadband rollout in 18 African nations.

The contract announcement constitutes the latest move in a global chess match among satellite operators and broadband hardware and service providers to line up coverage and customers. Hughes is the ground network provider for the Yahsat 1B satellite.

The announcement comes on the heels of Paris-based Eutelsat’s decision to build a Ka-band satellite for Africa. Eutelsat has not yet named a ground network provider.

Hughes and Eutelsat recently announced that Hughes would purchase Eutelsat Ka-band capacity for Hughes’ broadband project in Brazil.

ViaSat of Carlsbad, California, which is teaming with Eutelsat for seamless Ka-band coverage between North America and Europe, appears to have decided to go it alone with an announcement of plans to ring the globe with its constellation of high-throughput Ka-band satellites.


Abu Dhabi-based Yahsat said that under the contract, whose value was not disclosed, Germantown, Maryland-based Hughes would provide satellite Earth station gateways, consumer terminals and Hughes’ Operating Support System to work with Yahsat’s Al Yah 3 Ka-band satellite.

Al Yah 3 is under construction by Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia, and scheduled for launch in late 2016 aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket. The satellite has beams covering both Africa and Brazil. Yahsat has ambitions in both regions.

Al Yah 3 will operate at 20 degrees west longitude and carry 58 Ka-band spot beams.

The agreement on Al Yah 3 concerns only the 18 African nations that will be covered by the satellite, and not the Brazilian beams. It remains to be seen whether Yahsat and Hughes will pursue competing broadband initiatives in Brazil now that both have satellite infrastructure on the way.

In October, Yahsat announced that it had selected Newtec of Belgium, a Hughes competitor, to provide the ground infrastructure, including user terminals, for Yahsat’s Ka-band consumer broadband satellite service in Brazil.

Yahsat will be using Hughes’ Jupiter platform, similar to what the latter, which is owned by EchoStar Corp. of Englewood, Colorado, employs for its North American consumer broadband service. The Hughes North American service recently surpassed 1 million subscribers.

“We have been operating across Africa since 2012,” Yahsat Chief Commercial Officer David Murphy said in a statement. “Today we are the market leader, with established service partners in nine countries. The contract with Hughes further expands our growth plans, enabling next-generation broadband services across the continent.”


Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.