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UK carrier Three says it will start trialling ad blocking next month with a 24-hour opt-in test

TechCrunch TechCrunch 25/05/2016 Ingrid Lunden

Back in February, UK mobile carrier Three said that it would start to offer opt-in ad blocking technology from Shine on its network, potentially reaching 30 million customers. Now the company is getting down to details: it will start to trial ad blocking in June in the UK, with a 24-hour test for opted-in customers, the company said today.

“We believe the current mobile advertising model is broken and our customers are becoming increasingly frustrated by irrelevant and intrusive adverts which use up their data allowance and can invade their privacy by tracking their behaviour without their knowledge or consent,” the company said in a statement.

In research from April 2016, KPMG found that 44% of UK adults are planning to use an ad-blocker in the next six months.

Ad blocking has been a big issue for internet users, who are fed up with slow-loading, overbearing or irrelevant ads disrupting their web browsing. Many are also unhappy about the browsing data that is often collected as part of bigger online advertising services.

There is also a more immediate, financial interest in blocking ads: large, media-heavy ads are a drain on your bandwidth and can count towards your bandwidth allowance, eating up  your data plans, which is a acute problem for most mobile phone users especially.

PageFair — a company that actually works with publishers and ad companies to display “quality” ads that bypass ad blocking technology — estimated that by June 2015, there were some 198 million people using some form ad blocking software. It also said that the UK’s use of ad blocking was up by 82% in the year, now used by 12 million users up to June 2015. (In the U.S., ad blocking was used by 45 million users in the same period.)

The ad black-out will be carried out sometime in the week of June 13, and Three says the trial will “test the ability of the technology to filter out advertising that damages our customers’ mobile browsing experience without impacting their network experience.”

Three initially said it would also trial the service in Italy before expanding ad blocking as a option across its whole network. The carrier is owned by Hutchison Holdings, which also has mobile services in Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Macau, Sri Lanka, Sweden and Vietnam.

Ad blocking at the carrier level is believed to be more effective than solutions on a specific device or browser, or by a specific web publisher — all options that are available today. However, it will also put Three (and other carriers that might follow its lead) squarely against not just large brands, but the ad tech companies that help brands put their message in front of you.

“This is the next step in our journey to make mobile ads better for our customers,” said Tom Malleschitz, Three UK’s CMO, in a statement. “The current ad model is broken. It frustrates customers, eats up their data allowance and can jeopardise their privacy. Something needs to change. We can only achieve change by working with all stakeholders in the advertising industry – customers, advertising networks and publishers – to create a new form of advertising that is better for all parties.”

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