Communications provider and distributor Multiemedia has added to a string of Middle East contract wins inking a $1 million deal with the Iranian Red Crescent Society to deliver satellite broadband to disaster recovery and relief operations in Iran.
The Red Crescent deal is the most recent in more than a dozen for Multiemedia's satellite broadband division NewSat. The two-year contract would connect 40 Red Crescent sites in Iran to satellite broadband services, including VoIP and high-speed web browsing.
The Iranian Red Crescent Society is an affiliated body of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Federation that provides healthcare and emergency medical services around the world.
Charles D'Alberto, vice-president of international sales at NewSat, said Iran was a large country, with mountainous, difficult terrain so was particularly suitable for satellite broadband.
“It's a country where, let's say, everything stopped about 25 years ago so the technology there is quite old and quite inept,” he said.
Satellite broadband services would let organisations such as Red Crescent modernise their IT infrastructure quickly, efficiently and effectively. Demand for satellite broadband across the Middle East was very high, D'Alberto said.
NewSat's offerings were chosen partly because they could be deployed quickly and provided high quality service but were easily moved around as required, he said.
“With the units we're providing is one mobile system which gives [Red Crescent] the ability to put one of our antennae on a four wheel drive and have it carried anywhere, any time, and set up quickly,” D'Alberto said.
Currently, that meant contributing to an ongoing multi-million dollar relief effort for the 26 December 2003 Bam earthquake that measured 6.5 on the Richter scale, killing 43,000 people, injured another 30,000 and left 75,000 homeless.
Red Cross and Red Crescent efforts are expected to continue to work to rehabilitate and reconstruct Bam for another year, rebuilding sanitation, housing, water and health facilities for some 155,000 quake survivors.
NewSat was successfully competing against multi-billion dollar French companies that could afford to launch their own satellites. Critical to its Iranian success was local partner Iran Central, he added.
Local partnerships were absolutely critical to NewSat's success, he said.
D'Alberto said NewSat's successful deployment for the United Nations (UN) relief program at the refugee camps at Darfur in western Sudan had impressed Red Crescent's team.
“We've been here for 11 months, and it's pretty much been a one man operation out here,” he said. “We've done the major deal with the UN, several [Middle East] deals with the US and we're negotiating a fourth.”
D'Alberto said NewSat had also just completed a marine antenna deployment for a Saudi prince, and implementations for Austrade offices in Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere.
“We've done a banking network,” he said. “And we've also done a lot of oil and gas companies. We've done the two biggest oil rigs in Iran, providing connectivity to oil and gas platforms.”
Oil and gas contracts for NewSat were spread from Saudi Arabia to Yemen and Oman.
NewSat had also netted a number of embassies in the Middle East as customers for its services, including the embassies of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Germany, he said.
“The Middle East is basically the perfect market for our solutions. The demand is unprecedented. Next year, there'll be four [more] satellites being launched over the region,” D'Alberto said.
NewSat had also won deals further afield, in the African nations of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Meanwhile, solid opportunities for sales were appearing in North Africa – in Libya, Algeria and Morocco – and in Eastern Europe – Albania, Bulgaria and Romania, he said.
Middle East IT&T shows relatively unheard of in Australia – such as the giant GITEX exhibition – went for five days and had more than 120,000 people through the door in 2004.
NewSat had netted around 600 genuine leads from GITEX alone, he said.
“And we're only just now starting to spread our wings into places like Kazakhstan as well. In the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries, we're only just starting to get some promotion and that's going to be a big area of growth,” D'Alberto said.
When NewSat's first satellite was launched about two years ago, Multiemedia had believed it was taking a risk. Targeting the US or even Asia had seemed a more logical proposition to many commentators. But the gamble appeared to be paying off, D'Alberto said.
“[Middle Eastern nations] are starving for technology. They are starving for solutions and we haven't even scratched the surface for opportunities for services and solutions. This is where the market will be for the next 10 years,” he said.
While Australia also offered strong sales opportunities, the Middle Eastern market was potentially more lucrative in the near term, D'Alberto said.