Three to introduce ad blocking across its mobile networks in Europe

19 Feb 2016

Three is to introduce adblocking across Europe in a move that will infuriate Google and Facebook.

Mobile operator Three has signed a deal with Shine to block ads from appearing on mobile devices on its networks in the UK and Italy with a “rapid rollout” to follow in its operations across Europe. A spokesperson said no date has yet been confirmed for Ireland.

Three has signed a deal with Israeli tech company Shine to deploy ad-blocking technology across UK and Italy followed by a rapid rollout across its operations in other countries.

“Our objective in working with Shine is not to eliminate mobile advertising, which is often interesting and beneficial to our customers, but to give customers more control, choice and greater transparency over what they receive,” Three explained.

It said it is focusing on three principles: firstly, that customers should not pay data charges to receive ads; secondly, that customers’ privacy and security must be protected and their data not exploited, and, thirdly, that customers should not have their data experience in mobile degraded by excessive, intrusive, unwanted or irrelevant adverts.

We asked the local operations of Three in Ireland if it too will be deploying the ad-blocking technology. The company said: “From a Three Ireland perspective, at the moment this activity is focused on UK and Italy. There are no fixed launched dates for the actual product and once an approach is confirmed, we’ll have more information.”

Looming battle royale between mobile networks and internet giants

The move is part of an opening barrage by telecoms operators, which have been at loggerheads with over-the-top (OTT) players like Google and Facebook, who have made billions of dollars from advertising to mobile devices.

The bone of contention of mobile network operators is they have built the networks but aren’t getting any of the revenue being derived by internet giants.

The timing of Three’s decision is particularly interesting considering the mobile industry’s giant pow-wow, Mobile World Congress, kicks off on Monday in Barcelona.

However, the move could also be a serious concern for digital publishers, who are losing revenues because adblocking is being embraced, mainly by milllennials. According to a study by Irish-based start-up PageFair, some $21.8bn in advertising revenues was lost in 2015 due to adblocking.

The global cost of ad blocking to the advertising ecosystem is expected to be $41.4bn by 2016, according to PageFair.

Last year, we reported that Denis O’Brien’s mobile operator in the Caribbean, Digicel, is also partnering with Shine to block advertising from Facebook and Google on its network.

Digicel accused the OTT players of unashamedly trading off the network investments of mobile operators.

“Currently, these companies do not pay to make use of the network and the services they provide on it suck up bandwidth to make money for themselves through advertising while putting no money in,” Digicel said at the time.

Main image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years