Interview: Ali Al Hashemi

How can satellite-enabled internet-of-things (IoT) technologies boost telecommunications?

AL HASHEMI: For the past two decades IoT has been largely enabled by terrestrial telecommunications technologies, such as 3G, 4G and 5G. However, the scope and reach of IoT services has been extended further by satellite communications. IoT is playing a larger role in bringing the digital revolution to underserved and unserved communities, and satellite-enabled IoT supports the operation of critical functions such as remote education, logistics, remote operations, transport, health care delivery and financial networks. The economic and social impact of IoT cannot be overstated, especially for developing and emerging countries, as well as in remote and environmentally stressed areas.

Satellite communications providers are wellplaced to provide customers with IoT services thanks to the progress made in developing satellite-enabled technologies. Companies such as ours are working to develop and launch new technologies, and open up new markets. These types of IoT services are expected to be an important cornerstone of growth in the industry over the coming years.

To what extent do you expect environmental concerns to impact ICT investment strategies?

AL HASHEMI: Sustainability and environmental protection form the bedrock of the UAE’s national development strategy, one of the goals of which is reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. In line with these objectives, 2023 has been declared the Year of Sustainability in the UAE, and the country is set to host the COP28 UN Conference on Climate Change at the end of the year to fortify global action against climate change. Central to the discourse on sustainability is the mounting issue of space debris.

While it is essential to recognise the comparatively limited environmental footprint of space operators when comparing them to operators in the aviation industry, the proliferation of satellites in orbit demands more attention. It is imperative to be responsible and prudent within the burgeoning space sector, as sending thousands of satellites into orbit without considering the potential consequences of congestion could lead to problematic outcomes. Major global players that are aiming for scale in space must consider the potential repercussions of clogging the planet’s orbit.

Based on our observations of the telecommunications segment – where infrastructure such as communications towers is shared, and competition thrives on service quality rather than infrastructure ownership – there is a path to a more sustainable future. The unchecked increase in satellites can transform the space industry into a source of pollution and congestion, so shifting to a model centred on service delivery, rather than infrastructure ownership, is an important step to ensuring sustainability.

What role is sustainability expected to play in the development of satellite technologies?

AL HASHEMI: Satellites play a crucial role in tackling environmental challenges on a global scale. They assist in monitoring environmental concerns such as deforestation, which has been a major contributor to the concentration of greenhouse gases. They also provide invaluable data for sectors like agriculture, aiding efforts in food security by offering crucial insights into crop yields and weather forecasts.

Remaining committed to avoiding the creation of further space debris demands rigorous standards in the construction, launch and operation of satellites. Because of this, environmental considerations significantly influence investment strategies, in turn driving the search for innovations and technologies that align with core sustainability initiatives, including food security and environmental mapping.