Es'hailSat has been working for more than 10 years already that have been marked by Qatar's steady growth despite external instabilities. As Chairperson of the company, how would you classify this evolution?
Es'hailSat was established in 2010 by ictQATAR as an independent operating company to manage and develop Qatar's presence in space. We knew then that the Es'hailSat program would play an important role as Qatar worked towards meeting the rapidly growing communications needs in the region. With the spotlight on Qatar and the region, we anticipated that our broadcast independence will be of high value for the region, and that Es'hailSat had a huge potential to become a leader in the satellite industry in the Gulf region. Our successes over the past 10+years have vindicated our decision to establish the company. We have been able to operate and support our customers to continue transmitting news and sports channels uninterrupted even during the multiple illegal blockades and other challenges faced by Qatar and Qatari companies. Since the establishment of Es'hailSat, we launched two satellites, which are operating at a high utilization rate, and established our own state of the art Teleport in Doha, from where we monitor and control our satellites and provide services to customers. We have also moved from being a pure satellite capacity provider to a service provider. We started with a focus to operate within the MENA region, and with over 10 years of experience, technical know-how and expertise, we are now looking beyond MENA region and go global as with our aim to be a global satellite operator. I see this a natural evolution for a company like ours, to start small and stay focused, establish ourselves as a reliable partner to stakeholders and customers, be profitable and have a firm footing before we embark on our expansion plans.
Qatar has become a hub in the region for news services and the country is becoming increasingly specialized in the sports industry. Which opportunities does this offer to Es'hailSat to keep its development and strengthen its position as a satellite operator in the region?
The primary reason to set up Es'hailSat as an independent company was to provide advanced satellite services to strategic stakeholders and commercial customers who valued broadcasting and communications independence, quality service and wide geographical coverage. Our anchor customer for broadcasting when we started operating Es'hail-1, was Al Jazeera Networks. Supporting an independent news network was important for us, as Qatar was and is an important news hub in the region. As Al Jazeera expanded into sports broadcasting with beIN, we were again there to support their growth in the region. beIN now has become a major sports rights holder and have also added movies and entertainment channels to their bouquet of channels.
One of the key aspect broadcasters look for is the security of their content and at Es'hailSat we consider this an extremely important element when provisioning services to broadcasters. We have anti-jamming capabilities built into our satellites, geolocation systems to identify and help overcome any intentional or unintentional interference, and a highly secure Teleport facility. In addition, we actively participate in the regional anti-piracy coalition to address and mitigate all forms of content piracy.
In the long-term, satellites will remain the main means of content distribution, especially live news, and sports content, due to its ubiquitous nature and having a wide coverage. With the initiatives we are taking to provide secure services, and investment we are making in satellite assets and teleport infrastructure we are ideally positioned to support the regional broadcasters with their expansion plans, provide best in class service and strengthen our position as the premier satellite operator in the region.
Es'hailSat has partnered with the Doha-based international telecommunications company to offer Inmarsat L-band satellite voice and data services. What will be the impact of the implementation of this technology for doing business in the country?
Businesses and enterprises depend on reliable communications for mission critical and business critical services. In our region this is especially true given the nature of landscape and terrain, and how important the oil & gas industry is for Qatar and for the world in general. Vastness of the area, combined with the sparsely populated pockets, with harsh conditions makes reliable communication in general extremely critical. Implementing and maintaining terrestrial communications infrastructure can be challenging and, in some cases, economically unfeasible, hence satellite communications complements the terrestrial networks in enabling and managing the communications networks in remote regions and offshore. Qatar has always embraced and has been one of the early adopters of the latest and most innovative technologies. The use of advanced technologies for e-commerce and smart cities are developing and growing rapidly. And with Qatar growing at a steady pace and with increasing population, the need for reliable and secure communication becomes extremely important. We noticed that there was a strong demand for voice and data services on the move and mobility services in Qatar and the region. Working with key strategic partners is an example of how Es'hailSat is delivering integrated and innovative solutions to meet the demands of enterprises in the market.
As one of the most prominent figures in Qatar's technological landscape, what would beyour assessment of Qatar's digitalization levels and what would be the priorities for the country in the short term?
Over the years Qatar's government has implemented several initiatives to spur the growth of the ICT sector, with major infrastructure projects such as the International Airport, Doha Port, Lusail City, and FIFA 2022 projects accelerating the growth of the sector. These projects enabled the implementation of smart technologies for e-records management and bio-metric systems at the airport, vessel management and operating systems at the port, smart stadiums, and athlete management for FIFA 2022, to name a few. There had been wide acceptance of e-commerce in Qatar and digital transformation has been happening for some time now, and it is growing at a faster rate due to COVID-19 pandemic. There has been a definite uptake in social interactions in terms of online and mobile transactions for food delivery, education, and retail services. In addition to the established e-services and digital platforms like Hukoomi, Metrash, and others, new digital services were needed to support remote workforce and reduce in person interactions as much as possible. In smart cities, having an integrated communication network is important to connect people, machines, transportation, infrastructure, logistics, security, etc. Smart City projects such as Msheireb and Lusail feature digital projects that encompasses building and facility management system, safety and security systems, autonomous vehicles and fleet management, and traffic management system. Digital transformation initiatives such as Smart Qatar (TASMU), drives these smart cities, providing sustainable economic development, and improves quality of life and public service delivery. Qatar has been on the forefront of digitalization drive, and I see this continuing for the foreseeable future. There is a clear convergence taking place between the IT and communications sectors, and with services like Internet of Things (IoT), Machine to Machine (M2M), machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI), people and things are becoming even more connected. With these developments, priority will be given to cybersecurity, cloud security and privacy of data and people. These needs to be prioritized and managed well as work and life move ever closer to online and digital domains.