Several MNOs plan to block ads on their networks, as they battle for a cut of revenue with content providers such as Google, AOL and Yahoo. One European MNO told the FT that it has installed blocking software in its data centres and planned to turn it on before the end of 2015.
The software prevents most advertising from loading in browsers and apps, but does not interfere with “in-feed” ads of the kind used by Facebook and Twitter. The blocking technology comes from Shine, an Israeli start-up whose backers include Li Ka-shing, who also controls Hutchison Whampoa, one of the world’s largest telecoms groups.
“Tens of millions of mobile subscribers around the world will be opting in to ad blocking by the end of the year,” Roi Carthy, chief marketing officer of Shine told the FT. Shine said it was working with a number of operators, including one with almost 40 million subscribers.
Marketers will spend almost $69 billion this year on mobile ads according to research group eMarketer.
One European carrier confirmed to the FT it will initially launch an advertising-free service for customers on an opt-in basis. But it is also considering a more radical idea that it calls “the bomb”, which would apply across its entire network of millions of subscribers at once. The idea is to specifically target Google, blocking advertising on its websites in an attempt to force the company into giving up a cut of its revenues.
Many mobile operators are frustrated that digital media companies profit from their high-speed networks without having to invest in the infrastructure behind them. Google said it would be unreasonable for mobile operators to block ads, arguing that: “People pay for mobile internet packages so they can access the apps, video streaming, webmail and other services they love, many of which are funded by ads.”