Yahsat signs etisalat by e& as first telco partner for D2D strategy

Yahsat signs etisalat by e& as first telco partner for D2D strategy
From left: Ali Al Hashemi, group CEO of Yahsat, and Masood M. Sharif Mahmood, CEO of etisalat by e&

UAE operator etisalat by e& has become the first telecom operator to partner with UAE-based satellite operator Yahsat for its Direct-to-Device (D2D) strategy to enable satellite connections for standard smartphones.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on Thursday, Yahsat and e& UAE will collaborate to explore various initiatives and projects for Yahsat’s planned D2D ecosystem, dubbed “Project Sky”.

“We are discussing a whole host of areas where we aim to collaborate, which includes developing the ecosystem,” said Yahsat group CEO Ali Al Hashemi in a joint statement, adding that the deal with e& UAE was “the first of many agreements we hope to reach with key industry players as part of our D2D strategy.”

Yahsat revealed its two-phase plan for Project Sky – which is designed to provide seamless connectivity (including voice, texting, and data) for smartphones, as well as IoT devices – last month ahead of Mobile World Congress 2024 in Barcelona.

In Phase One on Project Sky, Yahsat will offer voice and messaging capabilities this year before releasing texting and IoT capabilities for smartphones in 2025. That phase will use Yahsat’s Thuraya geostationary satellites including Thuraya-2, Thuraya-3 and Thuraya-4, the latter of which is expected to be launched later this year and enter service in 2025.

In Phase Two, called “Project BlueStar”, the company aims to enable full direct-to-device connectivity through a “scalable and sustainable satellite network”. At the time, Yahsat gave no further details, but Thursday’s announcement said Yahsat and e& UAE would collaborate on “Yahsat ‘s planned Low Earth Orbit (LEO) D2D system”.

Yahsat’s D2D plan is different from projects by satellite operators such as Starlink, Lynk Global and AST Spacemobile, who plan to offer D2D satellite services using the same spectrum bands used by MNOs for mobile services. Yahsat intends to use L- band spectrum allocated and licensed for mobile satellite services (MSS).

Yahsat is one of five founding members of the Mobile Satellite Services Association (MSSA) – along with Viasat, Terrestar Solutions, Ligado Networks, Omnispace  – that was formed last month to promote a global D2D ecosystem using the L- and S-bands.

The MSSA says that using MSS bands for D2D services has the advantage of already being allocated and available for use, while D2D networks using terrestrial mobile bands face challenges such as local regulatory hurdles and interference mitigation.

The downside of MSS is that existing smartphones currently don’t support L- and S-band frequencies. The MSSA says MSS spectrum is “well-suited for integration into a broad range of mobile devices” and plans to include OEMs and chip vendors in its D2D ecosystem.


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