The Network coverage and quality of service are some of the advantages mobile phone users in emerging markets such as Kenya look for  in a provider. Another 41% of mobile phone users said they would continue using networks with better voice quality, network , messaging and internet experience.

These findings are contained in a Nokia Siemens Network (NSN) driven Research titled Acquisition & Retention Study. And despite having lower average incomes, which makes us assume that they would be cost-conscious, these users still prefer quality service. They consider operator charges at a marginally close second at 40 percent.

“Mobile phone users are demanding better quality service from operators, in markets like Kenya today, especially because more and more people in these emerging markets heavily depend on these services in their businesses, small as they may be. If a service is unreliable, customers are likely to consider switching operators regardless of the costs involved,” said Karri Kuoppamaki, Head of Technology, Nokia Siemens Networks in Africa.

Mr. Kuoppamaki though saying that it is hard to comment on Kenya’s network quality, he nonetheless say that teh country’s telecoms quality services compare favorably with the rest of the African countries.

“If we look at the local scene, Kenya is by no means a small market. It is the third largest market in the African continent, behind Nigeria and South Africa. The mobile market has grown tremendously and unpredictably over the last couple of years. This also means that operators have found it difficult to keep pace with this growth,” he said.

The study, conducted in 2010, also reveals that mobile users consider service and device portfolio (11 per cent) and customer care (8 per cent) as other important factors when picking a service provider. The study divides the markets into three areas – mature, transitional and emerging – and used a sample of 20,300 people across 17 countries worldwide.

More importantly, the study found that customer experience is getting increasingly important with many end-users reconsidering their operator attitude. With smartphones increasingly entering markets across the world, this group of users view improved speed, better mobile data portfolio as well as optimized data rates as important factors.

“To counter this trend, operators are increasingly relying on Nokia Siemens Networks’ products and solutions as well as our experience in customer experience management. Every day a quarter of the world’s population access Nokia Siemens Networks’ infrastructure and solutions. By 2015, we will connect five billion people and many more devices and applications. Our approach helps operators make the most of the assets they already own by linking insights about service performance and customer behavior to trigger actions that deliver genuine business impact,” said Mr. Kuoppamaki.

He adds, “Every third customer is at risk to churn within the next 12 months, especially in mature markets where customers are most likely to change their service provider. This study also identified that smartphone and data-card users are more likely to change than average, while high-spenders appear to be slightly more loyal customers.”

Africa’s mobile phone users rose to 333 million in 2010, according to international Telecommunications Union (ITU), with every 41 people in a hundred accessing a mobile device. Data from ITU also indicates that about 29 million people were accessing mobile broadband technologies in 2010. This is expected to grow further given that over 85 percent of handsets shipped globally in 2011 will include some form of browser, according to Gartner, a market research firm.

“Mobile broadband is a key growth opportunity in Africa where an increasingly large number of people, especially the emerging middle-class and young population, are increasingly using mobile devices to access information. This means that issues of data security will be increasingly important for mobile users.” he said.

But challenges remain. Even though some African countries have reduced tariffs charged on calling rates, GSM Association, an industry lobbyist, notes that taxation policies in Africa remain inhibitive and there is “need to align them with national ICT objectives to encourage growth of the nascent markets.” GSMA found, in a 2010 study, that at least 27 countries worldwide have adopted highly distorting tax approaches that will negatively impact growth of mobile broadband.

And as more users access internet on their mobile phones they will need security assurance from their operators. The Acquisition & Retention Studyfound that 71 percent of customers polled in emerging markets said they consider security as important issue. Nokia Siemens Networks’ solutions can help operators cope with these challenges by integrating robust infrastructure and solutions on their networks.