Thuraya (Arabic: الثريا /aθːurajːa/ which is the Arabic name for the Pleiades) is a regional satellite phone provider. Its coverage area is most of Europe, the Middle East, North, Central and East Africa, Asia and Australia.
The company is based in the United Arab Emirates and distributes its products and service through authorized service providers. Its shareholders are a mixture of Middle Eastern and North African telcos (in which Etisalat is a major one) and investment companies.
The current number of subscribers is around 250,000 (March 2006). Some 360,000 Thuraya handsets have been put in service since launch in 2001. The subscriber growth has apparently slowed down during the last year, but Thuraya still made a net profit of US$ 80 million on revenues of US$ 323 million in 2005 (compared to just US$ 26 million profit in 2004).
- Voice communications with handheld (Thuraya SO-2510, SG-2520, Hughes 7100 (discontinued) / 7101 and Ascom 21 (discontinued)) or fixed terminals
- Short message service
- 9.6 kbit/s of data & fax service
- 60 kbit/s downlink and 15kbit/s uplink "GMPRS" mobile data service on SO and SG handsets
- 144 kbit/s high-speed data transfer via a notebook-sized terminal (ThurayaDSL)
- GPS is supported by all handsets
- A number of value-added services, such as news, call back, call waiting, missed calls, voicemail, WAP, etc.
- Prayer service: after sending the GPS position to a special number a reply is sent back containing exact prayer times and heading towards Mecca. Service available for Sunnis and Shias (slight time difference for praying between Sunni and Shia)
- A one-way 'high power alert' capability that notifies users of an incoming call, when the signal path to the satellite is obstructed (e.g. inside a building)
- Marine Services: a combination of a special (fixed) base station and subscription offering voice, fax, data and always on internet-access. Also an emergency service which, when activated, sends multiple SMS messages containing alarm-status and actual position to pre-defined destinations
All 5 Thuraya handsets (except for the SO-2510) have a dual-mode feature that allows them to operate in the Thuraya satellite network and GSM
terrestrial mobile networks. Thuraya has concluded roaming agreements with over 200 wireless (cellular) operators around the world, providing its customers the ability of using their Thuraya phones outside the satellite coverage. The dual-mode feature of the handset is similar to the Telit (GSM/Satellite) and Qualcomm (CDMA/Satellite) handsets on the Globalstar
Roaming for outgoing calls is only available for subscribers. For pre-pay (scratchcard) users of Thuraya roaming is only available for receiving incoming calls.
The satellite-only SO-2510 was released in November 2006. It has a colour screen and is claimed to be the smallest and lightest satellite phone in the world and uses the VxWorks operating system. The SG-2520 was released in early 2007, this is a dual-mode handset that also connects to GSM/GPRS services and is based on Windows CE and made by Apsat in South Korea. The device is slightly bigger than the SO-2510 but it also has a camera, GPS and support for SD Cards. The operating system is a rather customised version of Windows CE and is not at all like Windows Mobile. It has support for running Java J2ME applications only.
Currently only the second generation handsets are on sale.
For the 2510 and 2520 a docking-station is available: the FDU 3500 indoor enabler
. This docking station changes a handset into a fixed terminal for indoor use, using external antennas for communication and GPS. Calls can be made using the horn of the FDU or via a standard POTS telephone connected to the FDU. You can also connect a group 3 fax and a PC (via USB or COM: serial interface) to the FDU. A similar device exists for the first generation of Thuraya handsets.
Modems and transceiver modules
Thuraya has also launched "Thuraya Module", a small (70x50x20 mm) unit designed for integration into other devices. This provides USB and digital audio interfaces and runs on VxWorks OS. Previously, third-party hardware developers used to remove electronics from handsets and integrate it into their hardware.
For data-only a DSL-modem is available providing an always on TCP/IP connection to internet via an ethernet interface with a PC.
Besides the above handsets and modules some special purpose fixed devices are developed: a payphone using chip-cards and Public Calling Office
phones to offer public telephone services in areas without other communication services (eg. disaster areas).
In spring 2008 Thuraya introduced Thuraya Marine: a combination of a fixed telephone unit and special contract. On the central unit a POTS phone, a fax and PC can be connected. The unit also has an emergency-button (and interface for remote switch) that will send several SMS messages to user defined destinations informing the receiver about the position of the craft.
Technical details of the network
Virtual country code
Thuraya's country calling code
is +882 16, which is part of the ITU-T International Networks
numbering group. Thuraya is not part of the +881 country calling code
numbering group as this is allocated by ITU-T for networks in the Global Mobile Satellite System
, of which Thuraya is not a part, being a regional rather than a global system.
Transceivers communicate directly with the satellites using an antenna of roughly the same length as the handset and have a maximum output power of 2 Watts
modulation is used for the air interface. Thuraya SIM cards will work in regular GSM phones and ordinary GSM SIM cards can be used on the satellite network as long as the GSM provider has a roaming agreement with Thuraya. As with all geosynchronous voice services a noticeable lag is present while making a call.
Use of GPS
Every Thuraya phone and standalone transceiver unit is fitted with a GPS
receiver and transmits its location to the Thuraya gateway periodically. This location can then be used to enforce regional restrictions on plans such as the Eco-SIM. Despite these tracking features the phones remain popular with terrorists
Thuraya operates three communications satellites
built by Boeing
The first satellite, named Thuraya 1, has deficient solar panels and cannot operate properly, this satellite is currently positioned above Korea for testing purposes. It was launched on 2000-10-21
on a Zenit 3SL
rocket. At launch it weighed 5250 kg.
The satellite was used for testing and backup until May 2007
, when it was moved to junk orbit
and declared end of life
Thuraya 2 was launched by SeaLaunch on 2003-06-10
. It is located in geosynchronous orbit
at 44 deg-E longitude, inclined at 6.3 degrees. The satellite can handle 13,750 simultaneous voice calls. This satellite currently serves most of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia
The craft had a weight of 3200 kg and an expected life of 12 years. The two solar-panel wings, each containing 5 panels, generate 11 KW electric power (at end of life). The craft has two antenna systems: a round C-band
antenna, 1,27 meter in diameter and a 12 x 16 meter reflector, 128 element L-band
antenna. These antenna's support up to 200 separate spot beams
, each configurable to concentrate power where usage needs it. Together the satellite can handle up to 13.500 individual calls at the same time. Thuraya 3
The third satellite was planned for launch by SeaLaunch in Q1 2007, and the start of Far East and Australia service was planned for 2007-10-15
. The failure in January 2007 of the NSS-8
rocket led to a substantial delay in the launch of Thuraya-3, which was rescheduled for 2007-11-14
, but the launch was postponed due to sea conditions. The launch vessels set out from port again on 2008-01-02
, and launch occurred successfully at 11:49 GMT
. The Thuraya 3
satellite is technically the same as Thuraya 2
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