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Kenya’s thorny mobile network coverage issue

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Nokia Siemens Networks' head office

Network coverage and quality of service remain key requirements by mobile phone users in emerging markets such as Kenya. This is according to a study by Nokia Siemens Networks, a global enabler of telecommunications services.

About 41% of mobile phone subscribers polled in a Nokia Siemens Network (NSN) driven Acquisition & Retention Study say they would continue with their operator if it offered better voice quality and coverage as well as a better messaging and Internet experience.

Surprisingly, despite having lower average incomes, which implies they are more likely to be cost-conscious, mobile phone users in emerging markets place a premium on quality service.

They place operator charges at a marginally close second at 40%.

“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,” says Karri Kuoppamaki, Head of Technology, Nokia Siemens Networks in Africa.

Kuoppamaki believes it is difficult to comment on the overall quality of service standards in Kenya, particularly since there are four operators in this market.

However, he does mention that the quality of telecom services in Kenya compare favorably with the rest of Africa. “If we look at the local scene, Kenya is by no means a small market. It is the third largest market on 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,” says Kuoppamaki.

Mobile study statistics

Nokia Siemens Network (NSN) driven Acquisition & Retention Study also reveals that mobile users consider service and device portfolio (11%) and customer care (8%) as other important factors they consider when selecting 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.

With smartphones increasingly penetrating markets across the world, this group of users view improved speed, wider 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,” Kuoppamaki added.

Kuoppamaki says Africa’s mobile phone users rose to 333 million in 2010, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), with every 41 people in a hundred accessing a mobile phone device. Data from ITU also indicates that about 29 million people accessed mobile broadband technologies in 2010.

“This is expected to grow further given that over 85% 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,” says Kuoppamaki.

Brian Adero

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