Viasat recently opened a new office in a city ranked as one of the most luxurious in the world. The Dubai office, now in a 300-square-foot space, is expected to grow as the company’s aviation, energy, and maritime mobility business in the region expands with the anticipated ViaSat-3 global satellite constellation. It also builds on Viasat’s ongoing relationship with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), a Dubai-based government entity that is integral to the UAE Space Program
Viasat subsidiary RigNet also has a UAE office in Dubai, and its 16 employees there will also use the Viasat space as needed.
“Initially we’ll have some people from the RigNet office working out of here, as well as visitors from other offices as they come through,” said Ryan Johnson, Global Market Access & Government Affairs lead for Viasat. “Our expectation is that, over the next several years, we will have more Viasat employees here.”
The office has opened largely in anticipation of business that is expected to come with ViaSat-3. The second satellite of the constellation is meant to serve Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
Earlier in 2021, Viasat added capacity across the Middle East and Western Europe through a lease with satellite company Avanti Communications. The new capacity bolsters Viasat’s growing global mobility and enterprise businesses, specifically in the aviation, maritime, and energy industries. It also helps Viasat establish a presence with mobility customers in the region in advance of ViaSat-3.
Additionally, Johnson said the new office can serve as an international showcase and demonstration site for Viasat’s products and services — much as the company’s current Washington, D.C. office does.
It’s also close to Viasat’s long-time business partner, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, a government entity integral to the UAE space program. Viasat has collaborated with the center since its 2006 founding, building ground antennas for satellites and space probes launched by the center and for other operations.
Johnson has been a regular visitor to the Dubai office as he helps pave the way for Viasat to conduct business in the region. He oversees regulatory requirements for market access around the world and helps promotes Viasat’s business value to the new countries where we plan to do business.
“Viasat has licenses for many of the key markets in Latin and North America in advance of the first ViaSat-3 satellite,” he said. “Now we’re in the process of getting the licenses we need for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for ViaSat-3 EMEA.”
RigNet’s Dubai office is located in an area without import or export taxes known as the Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone. But trade outside a free zone is not allowed, particularly for companies engaged in local services, which is why Viasat needed a separate office outside the free zone.
For RigNet employees, the new Viasat office is closer to some of its customers and has easier access to trade shows and other events, so Johnson expects they will use the space regularly.
Johnson’s work has repeatedly brought him to Dubai over the last decade; so much so, “it almost feels like home,” he said.
“It’s a very comfortable, cosmopolitan place,” he said. “Just walking down the street is a global experience; you hear so many languages being spoken.
“They’ve done a great job of creating a city people want to come to — not only to spend time, but also to invest. It’s got to be one of the most entrepreneurial and free-market cities in the world. There’s a huge business community to connect with here.”
Dubai was founded in 1833 as a fishing village. Today, it’s the most populated city in the United Arab Emirates, known for its luxury shopping, modern architecture, and nightlife. It’s also home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, which stands over 828 meters tall.