In 2018, Hughes and Yahsat, a leading global satellite operator based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) created a joint venture agreement to provide satellite broadband services across Africa, the Middle East, and southwest Asia. The following year, they entered into another agreement to provide commercial Ka-band satellite broadband services in Brazil. These ventures were the outgrowth of their 10-year relationship in the Africa middle east region.
“When Hughes decides to partner with a company, it’s because there are a lot of synergies,” explained Rafael Guimaraes, president of Hughes do Brazil.
Kartik Seshadri, vice president at Hughes agreed, “From the highest levels, Hughes and Yahsat have always had a very collaborative relationship. These joint ventures only enhanced that.”
Since the formal agreements were signed, great progress has been made.
A Seamless Integration Yields Market Leadership
Across Africa and the Middle East, their focus is on providing unserved and underserved communities with reliable, high-speed broadband service over Yahsat’s Al Yah 2 (AY2) and Al Yah 3 (AY3) Ka-band satellites – which cover more than 1 billion people and leverage the capabilities of the Hughes JUPITER™ System. According to Mr. Seshadri, the JUPITER system is now enabled across all the key AY2 and AY3 beams—delivering the highest capacity per Megahertz in the respective beams.
“We’re focused on supporting YahClick as they expand their reach in South Africa and other markets. In South Africa for example, MorClick became Master Distributors of YahClick’s services, products, and solutions to allow them to provide reliable, convenient, and affordable satellite connectivity services for consumers and enterprises. This partnership has been very successful and we now have thousands of Hughes JUPITER terminals enabling services across South Africa,” he said. “MorClick is already the #1 ISP in the market in just a year because of its ability to grow the subscriber base.” Hughes also provides service operations and runs the networks to ensure a positive experience for subscribers.
“In spite of the pandemic, our team in Abu Dhabi didn’t skip a beat. Working remotely, we were able to do everything we’d normally do,” Mr. Seshadri explained.
That included identifying the big shifts in network traffic patterns resulting from more people working from home. As in every market around the world, they saw longer peak hours and significant increases in video streaming and use of collaboration applications.
“The JUPITER system has the required bells and whistles, which we can tweak overnight to meet the changing requirements. Since we run our own service, we can address changes and adapt to increased growth demands quickly for better end customer satisfaction,” he said. “The system is very adaptable, across both software and functionality, to make sure it’s enabling the best service. There are few problems in the satellite broadband delivery space that we have not encountered and addressed in our own service! We leverage that knowledge to better support our customers everywhere in the globe.”
While the priority has been to continue to add more users, including through Community Wi-Fi solutions, there is also an increased emphasis on expanding cell backhaul service and the enterprise business.
“Overall, it’s been a really seamless integration,” Mr. Seshadri noted. “We add a lot of technical and operational value, and so does Yahsat, because they know the markets really well. The good news is we’ll be able to repeat this same approach in other markets in the Africa/Middle East region.”
From Competitors to Collaborators
The story for Hughes and Yahsat in Brazil differs slightly. There, the two companies began as competitors in the consumer market, but quickly realized they could join forces to serve the growing market demand, including consumer Internet access, enterprise networks, cellular backhaul and Community Wi-Fi hotspot solutions. The venture began by combining the capacity of three satellites to reach more than 95% of Brazil’s population — leveraging the Ka-band satellite capacity on Hughes 65 West and Hughes 63 West, as well as the payload over Brazil from the Al-Yah 3 High-Throughput Satellite (HTS), also known as Hughes 20 West.
As Mr. Guimaraes explained, merging these operations took concerted planning and effort.
“We spent a lot of time sharpening our tools, thinking through the issues, and deciding what was most important to accomplish. Because Yahsat was using different systems and technologies, our first task was to put the JUPITER System technology to work as the ground system for the 20 West payload,” he said. When the agreement was originally signed, Yahsat had 20,000 subscribers using their system and equipment, all of whom needed to be migrated over to the Hughes platform.
The next step was taking Yahsat’s existing distribution network and incorporating it into the Hughes network. Yahsat had 20 regional distributors and about 400 dealers, all of whom required new contracts and training on Hughes systems and processes.
“It would have already been very challenging to do all this under normal circumstances, and then in March the pandemic struck,” he recalled. “That made everything much more complicated, but by June or July we met most of our objectives. The joint team did a great job working together, anticipating problems, and acting quickly to resolve them.”
The Brazil team also conducted a promising pilot test and will soon rollout a HughesNet® Voice service so that subscribers in rural areas can make and receive calls. In addition to enhancing services and growing the consumer business, the team is expanding its presence in the enterprise market. Delivering consumer Internet access and managed enterprise services across South Africa, the Middle East, and Brazil, Hughes and Yahsat together are meeting market demand by connecting the unconnected and powering the connected future.