Middle East market focus with Arianespace Sales Director Tony Thoma
This week’s Global Space and Satellite Forum (GSSF) in Abu Dhabi is the Middle East’s leading space and satellite event. Arianespace is an active participant at the forum, with its team led by Tony Thoma, the company’s Sales Director.
At this week’s Global Space and Satellite Forum in Abu Dhabi, Arianespace Sales Director Tony Thoma meets with H.H. Prince Dr. Turki Saud Mohammed Al-Saud, the Vice President for Research Institutes at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.
In the following interview, Thoma reviews Arianespace’s long-time presence in the Middle East marketplace, and provides his outlook for the region’s space sector development in both telecommunications and Earth observation.
Question: What is the Middle East market’s importance for Arianespace?
Answer: In Arianespace’s historically strong and dynamic presence across many countries – the greater Middle East area remains a strategic market for our company. Today, we have orbited 19 telecommunications satellites for the region, which represents a 70 percent market share. During the past five years, Arianespace has won all of the open commercial competitions, enabling us to maintain our relationships with such long-time customers as Arabsat, while also developing in new-entrant countries such as Qatar and Azerbaijan. In addition to the telecom satellite sector – which remains active with the average orbiting of one spacecraft per year, typically in our “sweet spot” liftoff weight category of three metric tons – the future also will be paced by the launches of Earth observation platforms. Middle East nations are showing a particular interest in such capabilities, and when one country acquires such a satellite-based observation system, it could trigger a drive by others to do the same.
Question: How do you see the space sector’s future development in this part of the world?
Answer: Middle East countries have the will to be active on the international scene, and to be present in sectors that have a strong value-added aspect. As a result, there are numerous space projects being planned: Dubai is working on a follow-on optical Earth observation satellite with higher-quality imagery at better than 1-meter resolution; Virgin Galactic is considering a facility in Abu Dhabi for its space tourism missions; and others – such as Oman, Iraq and Afghanistan – want to have their own telecom spacecraft. Certain players are very dynamic, with the Arabsat acquisition of Europe’s Hellas-Sat serving as an example of how Middle East regional operators are expanding their access to orbital slots. In more day-to-day aspects, established operators such as Yahsat in Abu Dhabi and Qatar’s Es’hailSat continue to be active through new investments. As a realistic assessment, I expect Arianespace will launch at least one telecom satellite for the Middle East region annually on heavyweight Ariane 5 missions during the coming several years. In addition, we expect our services with the medium-lift Soyuz and lightweight Vega will generate new business opportunities while helping the development of observation satellite missions for this geographic zone.
Question: What are some of the keys to success in working with customers in the Middle East?
Answer: In the business world, it is often said that personal relationships are fundamental. In the Middle East, they are crucial. Establishing an atmosphere of confidence, making regular visits, and – above all – keeping one’s word are highly valued. As these are fully aligned with Arianespace’s commitment to customers, we look forward to a long and mutually beneficial presence in this area of the world.