Thuraya Telecommunications Company, a leading Mobile Satellite Services operator today announced a strategic partnership with AT&T, to provide outbound GSM roaming for voice and data services to Thuraya users across the United States.
The roaming service, which commenced on March 15, 2013, allows Thuraya subscribers to roam seamlessly with their Thuraya XT-Dual handsets on the AT&T network. Thuraya customers in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands can now make and receive calls, and also send and receive text messages (SMS).
The next stage of the roaming service between Thuraya and AT&T will enable AT&T customers to roam and use the Thuraya satellite network which spans over 140 countries across Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe.
Thuraya satellites can support 512 spot beams, with each beam providing coverage to an area of up to 600km. Where additional bandwidth capacity is required, the network can boost satellite power to concentrate 20 percent of the total capacity into a single beam, or 40 percent across three beams, as demand dictates.
Thuraya’s satellites have two antenna systems: a round C-band antenna, and an 12 x 16 meter L-band antenna (at 1.6 GHz) with 128 elements, not unlike Lightsquared’s satellite platform in the United States. These antennas support up to 200 separate spot beams, each configurable to concentrate power where usage needs it.
SoftBank Mobile has received approval from the Japanese regulator to provide Thuraya’s satellite network services in Japan. The two companies will offer a new version of Thuraya’s handset with special features available exclusively for sale from SoftBank Mobile. The Thuraya handset for Softbank is apparently dual-mode. It would utilize Softbank’s terrestrial frequencies which use TD-LTE at 2.6 GHz, among other lower frequencies.
When Lightsquared tried to offer terrestrial service on the 1.6 GHz band, they were shut down by the FCC over potential interference problems with GPS receivers which also operate at an adjacent 1.6 GHz frequency. The Lightsquared satellite is currently on-station and operational, but it is not actively promoted. The company was betting that terrestrial LTE service, using the same satellite frequencies, would boost business significantly.
Without a terrestrial connection, the business model for Lightsquared has apparently collapsed since a satellite-only phone was of limited use and a dual-mode phone was too expensive.
Thuraya serves a higher population of remote phone users. Now users of Thuraya dual-mode phones can use them in the United States over AT&T’s existing terrestrial cellular network.