Mobile operators in Europe may be planning to block online ads soon. A report from the Financial Times claims one unnamed European carrier has installed blocking software on its network and plans to activate it by the end of the year. The blocking technology, developed by Israeli startup Shine, allows mobile networks to filter out ads provided by Google and others to reduce bandwidth usage on their networks.
“Tens of millions of mobile subscribers around the world will be opting in to ad blocking by the end of the year,” claims Roi Carthy, chief marketing officer of Shine, in an interview with the Financial Times. Carthy also revealed to Business Insider recently that a major carrier with tens of millions of customers will make an ad blocking announcement within the next couple of months. Shine has previously claimed at least one US carrier is involved in using its technology to block ads, but Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile didn’t respond to The Wall Street Journal’s requests for comment back in October.
Whether or not carriers in Europe or the US are actively blocking ads, or plan to, isn’t clear. “An executive at a European carrier confirmed that it and several of its peers are planning to start blocking adverts this year,” reports the Financial Times, but the carrier isn’t named. Shine itself is backed by investors like Horizons Ventures, which is owned by Li Ka-shing, the chairman of Hutchinson Whampoa. The 3 network that operates across Europe is owned by Hutchinson Whampoa.
European carriers may want to pressure Google
While carriers have many reasons for wanting to block ads, bandwidth savings and pressuring Google and other internet firms could be chief among them. The unnamed European carrier in the Financial Times article is reportedly planning to target Google and block its ads to force the company into giving up some of its revenue. Mobile ads are a lucrative business, and US telecommunications giant Verizon Wireless announced its plans to acquire AOL for $4.4 billion this week for its content sites and mobile ad technology.
If carriers do decided to block ads, it will likely result in questions around net neutrality. Carriers in Europe and the US must treat data on their networks equally, and automatically filtering ads could violate those laws. Carriers could bypass this by creating a paid-for ad blocking service, or even by asking customers to opt-in to any ad blocking, but that might not avoid scrutiny from regulators or pressure from the advertising industry.