Boeing built the Thuraya satellites - the first in the GEM series of spacecraft - to provide a range of cellular-like voice and data services over a large geographic region. The innovative contract, signed just over 10 years ago, included the manufacture of three high-power geosynchronous satellites as well as integration with a ground segment and user handsets. The Thuraya ground segment includes terrestrial gateways plus a collocated network operations center and satellite control facility in the United Arab Emirates. The Primary Gateway in Sharjah, UAE, serves the entire coverage area and Thuraya plans to establish additional national gateways at other locations as necessary.

The Thuraya mobile communications system serves a region of 2.3 billion people, in the Middle East, North and Central Africa, Europe, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Thuraya offers GSM-compatible mobile telephone services, transmitting and receiving calls through each satellite's 12.25-meter-aperture reflector. The satellites employ state-of-the-art on-board digital signal processing, creating a capacity with more than 500 spot beams that can be redirected on-orbit, allowing the Thuraya system to adapt to business demands in real time. Calls are routed directly from one handheld unit to another, or to a terrestrial network. The system has the capacity for 12,560 simultaneous voice circuits.

Thuraya began commercial operations in mid-2001, following Sea Launch's successful deployment of Thuraya 1 on October 20, 2000. Sea Launch successfully orbited Thuraya-2 on June 10, 2003. The 5,173 kg (11,381 lb) Thuraya-3 spacecraft is designed to to expand Thuraya's system capacity and coverage area.

The Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Company, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, has the world's largest subscriber base for satellite handheld services. The company offers cost-effective, satellite-based mobile telephone services to nearly one third of the globe. Through its dynamic dual mode handsets and satellite payphones, Thuraya enhances freedom of movement and connectivity. The regional mobile telecommunications via satellite (GMPCS) is helping to meet the need for affordable, high-quality mobile phone services to urban hubs as well as remote communities. Through a partnership with leading national telecom and mobile communications companies, Thuraya provides border-to-border coverage to more than 100 countries in Europe, the Middle East, North and Central Africa, Central and Southern Asia - a landmass populated by an estimated 2.3 billion people. Thuraya offers satellite, GSM (cellular) service and location determination system (GPS) in a single dual-mode handset that offers voice, data, fax and short messaging services. Thuraya's high degree of flexibility and convenience has changed the way people live and work; their day-to-day lifestyles and the manner in which they connect with business associates and customers, families and friends.