Orange, Google deliver SMS services to Africa

Orange’s pan-African operations have partnered with Google in a bid to exploit SMS as a platform for delivering Google services to low-end devices in use across Africa and the Middle East.

With a total customer base of around 60 million customers across the continent, Orange is keen to facilitate access to innovative services, expanding “Gmail SMS Chat” from Senegal, Uganda and Kenya to Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea Conakry and Niger and deploying it as a trial in Egypt.

The service, which gives Gmail users a quota of free text messages they can send to any Orange customer, will ultimately be rolled-out across Orange’s entire African footprint. As the SMS quota is used, an additional five messages are added each time an Orange customer replies to the initial SMS. Through this service, Gmail users can add Orange mobile customers (even if they do not have a Gmail account) to their address books and initiate chat sessions with them. For Orange customers, the service is free of charge and requires no subscription; chat messages sent from their mobile phones are billed at normal SMS rates.

“By bringing the full potential of the mobile internet to our customers in Africa, this strategic partnership is a step forward in Orange’s “Digital Coach” strategy,” said Xavier Perret, VP of strategic partnerships at Orange, as the group revealed plans to extend the initiative to more Google services.

“The group’s capacity to combine its knowhow on service infrastructure with innovation, and by adapting its offers to local needs, will enable it to provide mobile customers across Africa with access to internet-based services in the best possible conditions,” Perret said.

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