Orange unveils new Google phone, smart meter and solar energy for Africa

Orange is to launch a new smartphone and trial solar energy and smart metering technology in Africa.

The France-based company made the announcements at its annual strategic update for the Middle East and Africa in London on Thursday.

The operator said it remained on track to deliver 20 percent revenue growth by 2018 but that it was upgrading the same target for EBITDA growth thanks in part to increased data usage.

A new phone that showcases Google services and is 4G ready will launch in the Ivory Coast in September.

Orange has 4G networks active in nine countries across MEA currently.

The Rise 51 device builds on a device it unveiled for 3G networks at this year’s Mobile World Congress.

[Read more: Orange Partnership chief hopes for more from Google following African adventure]

Bruno Mettling, Orange’s Deputy CEO and the man in charge of the company’s MEA region, said that one African in two had a mobile device, while one in three has access to electricity.

To help to close the gap, Orange unveiled two initiatives aimed at getting a share of the energy sector.

First, it announced plans to provide solar energy kits for individual houses and micro grids for “collectives” of rural communities in the Ivory Coast, Senegal and Cameroon.

Orange is subsidising the entire cost of the equipment for what it is calling its Rural Electrification Programme.

The trial will run for six months from November.

The company first trailed plans for this project, in partnership with electricity company Engie, last December.

Second, Orange is installing 100 smart electricity meters in homes in Tunisia.

This six month trial is being carried out in partnership with local energy firm STEG.

The two companies said they hoped to roll out the service to four million premises across Tunisia in the future.

Orange indicated that it wanted to push its “smart meter as a service” proposition into other countries.

The operator is now present in 21 countries across MEA after a spate of acquisitions.

Revenues in the region grew at a slower pace in the second quarter due to the fact that it had to scratch 1.4 million customers in the DRC after the government imposed stricter regulation requiring telcos to log more identification details about customers who sign up.

Orange CFO Ramon Fernandez said the “short-term, negative impact” that this caused was now “behind” the company although he could not rule out the possibility of it occurring elsewhere.

Orange revealed it had rolled out a new service called NOMAD that aims to improve the authentification of new customers in 14 markets.

It also launched an NFC Coins initiative that aims to solve the lack of change in Africa and a US dollar-based app store.

The operator’s Orange Money service now has more than 19 million customers, up by more than a third on 12 months ago, while revenues grew by half.

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