Orange Partnership chief hopes for more from Google following African adventure

Orange’s Head of Strategic Partnerships has said she hopes to explore more opportunities with Google after the two companies announced a joint project in Africa at Mobile World Congress.

Orange will provide its customers with a tailored package of Google services on a new 3G smartphone as part of a year-long partnership announced on Monday.

Sulina Connal told European Communications that the France-based operator has “some other ideas” about how it would like to work with Google, but couldn’t say where the discussions might lead.

Project Loon, Google’s attempt to use a global network of high-altitude balloons to connect people in rural and remote areas, was “not a part of the conversation”, she said.

Connal also rebuffed the notion that the internet company was a difficult party to deal with from a telco point of view.

She said: “It wasn’t a tough negotiation, there wasn’t a fight over revenue share.

“We’re both putting in a significant amount of energy and investment to make this work.”

The partnership grew out of discussions Orange CEO Stephane Richard had with Google's then Product Chief Sundar Pichai at last year’s Mobile World Congress.

Connal said: “They started talking about challenges for certain segments of customers in Africa, Android and the services they need.”

The result is offering what Connal claims is a device that is “much more powerful than anything that’s available on the market currently” to Orange’s 115 million customers in Africa.

A key aim of Orange’s strategy is to move the two-thirds of its customer base that resides on a 2G network to 3G.

The operator saw mobile data revenues in its Africa, Middle East and Europe business increase by 50 percent between 2014 and 2015.

[Read more: Orange reports annual earnings growth for first time in seven years]

It expects mobile data usage of those who sign up for its new phone to rise significantly.

Orange and Google are betting that the “disruptive” tariff plan they have developed together for this project will convince potential customers to sign up.

Users pay $40 for an initial three-month deal that includes the phone, data, voice and SMS services.

Orange has been highly acquisitive in Africa as it looks to boost its footprint on the continent.

Earlier this month it announced plans to buy Millicom subsidiary Tigo DRC for $160 million.

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