Google, Orange Collaborate to Provide Gmail SMS Chat

Search engine giant Google has partnered with Orange to bring its Gmail SMS-to-Chat service to select African nations.

Google’s service allows Gmail users to chat with mobile phone users via SMS. Gmail users are able to send text messages to a mobile phone number with no internet access.

Mobile phone users have to pay for sending replies on the basis of their mobile phone contract but Gmail users don’t pay anything but have a limit on the number of SMSs they can send.

Google’s Gmail SMS to Chat service is already available in the United States, Indonesia and Philippines.

The new service is being currently offered by French mobile phone operator Orange in Kenya, Senegal and Uganda and will soon start offering it in Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea Conakry and Niger. The company also plans to start testing the service in Egypt.

The company said that they didn’t planned to offer internet based service as 62.5 percent people in Africa have a mobile phone but only 1.4 percent have access to broadband internet access.

"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 at Orange.

"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,” he added.