Abu Dhabi: EADS Astrium and Thales Alenia Space consortium has won a $1.66 billion (Dh6 billion) contract from Abu Dhabi's Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat) to manufacture a dual satellite communications system to be launched by the second half of 2010.

Two satellites and an earth station will comprise the system that will serve military and commercial communication purposes, providing broadcasting, tele-communication and broadband services.

"The system initially will serve the Middle East, Africa, most of Europe, and South East Asia regions," Jasem Mohammad Al Za'abi, Yahsat's chief executive officer, said.

Sixty-five per cent of the financing will be through a syndicated loan, and the remaining 35 per cent will be through Yahsat, 100 per cent owned by Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Development Company, according to Waleed Ahmad Al Mokarrab, Yahsat's chairman, and Mubadala's chief operating officer.

The syndicated loan will be lead arranged by BNP Paribas.

In April, Mubadala estimated the cost of the system to be about $1.36 billion. "However, along the way, further optimisation and details were required for the system, which entailed increasing cost," Al Mokarrab said, adding that the actual work will start within two months from now.

The contract came after a tough competition between EADS and Boeing. However, the EADS-led consortium provided a better option.

"Competition was tough for the tender, especially from Boeing, but we won due to our cutting edge technology and our record track in military services, especially in Great Britain," Francois Auque, EADS Astrium's CEO told Gulf News.

"We also have extensive experience in the region, as we have signed another contract with Arabsat about two months ago," he added.

"The new system comes at a time when the global satellite business touched $80 billion last year, and we intend to capture the opportunity and compete in that market," Al Mokarrab said.

"The construction works of the land gateway will involve tenders for sub-contracts where local firms can have a chance to participate." according to Al Za'abi.

Technical support can be needed from the manufacturers and system pro-viders during the first few months. However, Yahsat official maintains that the company's own staff will be in full charge of the system as soon as they can handle it efficiently enough.