Three installs mobile ad blocker at a network level

19/02/2016

In a shock move, Three has become the first mobile operator to block ads at a network level.

The controversial move signals a step change in the ongoing battle between ad blockers and the digital marketing industry.

The company is partnering with Shine Technologies, with the aim of reducing mobile advertising experienced by customers browsing when using the Three network.

The controversial technology will be used initially on Three's UK and Italian networks, before a "rapid roll-out" in other markets.

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Three says that blocking at a network level is more effective than at an app level on individual devices.

The mobile network is positioning the partnership as a pro-consumer manoeuvre.

In a press release, the carrier says ad-blocking will be used to achieve "three principle goals" -- reducing data costs, protecting its customers from malware-riddled ads, and ensuring subscribers receive ads that are targeted and engaging, rather than intrusive and irrelevant.

Tom Malleschitz, Chief Marketing Officer, Three UK, explained why: "Irrelevant and excessive mobile ads annoy customers and affect their overall network experience. We don't believe customers should have to pay for data usage driven by mobile ads. The industry has to work together to give customers mobile ads they want and benefit from. These goals will give customers choice and significantly improve their ad experience.”

This, however, is only the beginning. EE and and O2 are considering similar tactics.

Three hasn’t yet confirmed exactly when it will be activating the service for users, but its announcements made clear that the developments would “enable rapid roll-out of the technology to all other Three Group operators.”

The issue of ad-blocking is a serious concern for those publishers and industries who provide services for free, based on advertising. Many websites use advertising revenue rather than subscription or other revenue to fund those businesses, from niche fan interest sites and forums, to huge news websites, to those wanting to promote their online boutique store.

Three says that more details will be provided in coming months as to how the company will provide a better experience for its customers, but we're left wondering how that deal will work out for online content providers and communities.

IAB response- "Hurting consumers and publishers across Europe"

Following the move, IAB Europe expressed its 'serious concern' following the announcement that mobile operator Three is to impose network-level ad blocking in the UK and Italy followed by a rapid roll-out of the technology in its other European operations.

In a statement, IAB Europe (the trade body for digital marketing across Europe) said: “The ad-funded Internet provides consumers with a rich universe of informational, educational, scientific, entertainment and business services at little or no cost at the point of consumption.

“Ad blocking threatens the Internet as we know it and penalises vulnerable consumers and small companies who depend on ad-funded online services, as well as undermining media diversity and independence in Europe. Moreover, imposition of ad blocking at the network level is at variance with the principle of net neutrality and a clear interference in freedom of commerce.

“The digital advertising industry believes that choice at the individual user level is the way forward and is deeply invested in addressing user experience issues such as latency. The IAB’s L.E.A.N. ads programme is testimony to that commitment.”

Read the full announcement here

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