Orange, Google partner for SMS services
Johannesburg - Telecommunications operator Orange and web giant Google on Thursday announced a strategic partnership that would leverage Orange's SMS platform to bring Google's services to African customers.
The agreement would facilitate access to the growing mobile internet market in Africa, both groups said.
Orange noted that, at the end of 2010, only 1.4% of the population in Africa and the Middle East had access to broadband services, compared with 62.5% for mobile services.
The group said that, through the development of SMS-based services operating on all mobile networks (including GSM), Orange and Google would extend the reach of a wide range of internet services that were previously limited to smartphone and broadband users (through 3G, CDMA or WiMax networks) to all Orange mobile customers.
Orange boasted a total customer base of about 60 million across the continent.
Through Google SMS, African mobile customers would benefit from a wide range of Google services via SMS.
Orange and Google launched this service in Senegal in July 2010, where it has been a huge success.
Uptake exceeded expectations, with almost 700 000 unique users and four million messages sent by SMS in the first six months, the groups said.
The service, which was also already live in Uganda and Kenya, would be launched in the coming months, with the support of the group's technology centre in Abidjan for Orange customers in Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Guinea Conakry and Niger.
A test phase would also be launched for Mobinil customers in Egypt. The service would ultimately be rolled out across Orange's entire African footprint, it said.
The services proposed under Google SMS were only the first stage of this partnership. "Orange and Google are now exploring ways of bringing other Google services to the whole Orange customer base," they said.
"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, vice-president for strategic partnerships.
"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.
"We are delighted to work with a major brand like Google and we know that by innovating together we can really change the role mobile technology plays in our customers' lives."
France Telecom-Orange had a customer base of 215.9 million customers at March 31, including 141.6 million customers under the Orange brand, the group's single brand for internet, television and mobile services in the majority of countries where the company operates.
At March 31, the group had 156.7 million mobile customers and 13.9 million broadband internet (ADSL, fibre) customers worldwide.