Orange, Google team for affordable comms in Africa and Middle East

BARCELONA, Spain -- Google and Orange today announced that they are teaming up to bring affordable mobile communications to people in the Middle East and Africa.

The companies are preparing to offer an all-inclusive digital communications package to MEA consumers covering mobile voice, data, SMA and a smartphone, with tariffs starting at $40 (€35.93). The offer will be delivered in a phased approach and will start to roll out across the full Orange MEA footprint in the second quarter of this year.

Yves Maitre, Orange's EVP of connected objects and partnerships said the goal of the collaboration is to open the door to mobile internet access to consumers who currently don't have a smartphone.

Speaking to FierceWireless:Europe, here, Maitre said that "45% of Orange's customers in EMEA are buying smartphones". He added: "That's up 15% from last year. It means the usage of smartphones is picking up very strongly in those countries, and not only voice, but also data.

"And now [our partnership] with Google is not to address the middle classes that already have a smartphone, but it is to address the other 55% who are still using a feature phone."

Maitre said that in the next few weeks, Orange will launch the Orange Rise 31 Special Edition, a new and exclusive Orange branded 3G device. The flagship model of Orange's 2016 smart family line up for Orange MEA, the smartphone will run Google's Android 6.0 Marshmallow and be the first Orange customised smartphone to run Marshmallow at a low price point.

The device features a 4-inch display, a quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, and a 3-megapixel camera. Orange will offer the device a three month communications pack covering voice, data and SMS "so everyone can enjoy the internet," Maitre explained, adding "so it's really a very, very competitive device."

Orange and Google will also offer specific content in local languages, including YouTube tutorials on how to operate the smartphone, local sport, news and entertainment, said Maitre. They will also have access to everyday tools such as Google Search and Google Maps.

Richard Turner, director of Android partnerships for EMEA, said. "Today, over three billion people across the world are using the internet to live better, richer lives and create opportunities for themselves and their communities. The driving force behind this growth -- particularly in Africa and the Middle East -- is smartphones."

The device will launch with the native set of Google services and the goal of the partnership is to add more local services and content over time.

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