Three becomes first European mobile operator to adopt network-level ad-blocking

The ad-blocking debate gathered momentum in 2015, but it seems that 2016 will be the year when it finally starts to take hold. Three UK and Three Italy have today confirmed that they will be the first mobile networks to roll out network-level ad-blocking technology.

Three becomes first European mobile operator to adopt network-level ad-blocking

“Irrelevant and excessive mobile ads annoy customers.” Tom Malleschitz, Chief Marketing Officer, Three UK

Three has partnered with Israeli startup Shine to introduce their ad-blocking tech. Tom Malleschitz, chief marketing officer of 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. It’s almost certain that this kind of network-level ad-blocking tech will proliferate across other networks. Talking to TechCrunch, Shine’s CMO Roi Carthy explained that this was just the tip of the iceberg and confirmed that the company is in negotiations with “over 60 carriers around the world including others in Europe and in the US”.

“We expect to finish 2016 with hundreds of millions of consumers either opting in or having the opportunity to opt into Shine,” he added.

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 rollout of the technology to all other Three Group operators.”

With operations in Hong Kong, Australia, Austria, Denmark, Indonesia, Italy, Macau and Sweden, it seems that Three’s 30 million customers worldwide may be the first to experience a truly ad-free internet.

But is network-level ad-blocking actually legal?

Maybe not. David Meyer writing for Fortune explains that Three’s announcements may be premature, as the very mechanism of blocking ads at a network level would fall foul of the EU net neutrality laws. However, these laws, at the time of writing, are yet to come into effect. 

That’s not to say that this spells game over for Three’s plans. While Meyer’s EU sources clearly disagree, he notes that Three UK remains confident of success: according to their spokesperson, Three’s legal team claims there is no “clash” with net neutrality law.

As expected, delivering an ad-free internet really won’t be as simple as flicking a switch.

What are your views on ad-blocking? Let us know in the comments below. 

Read more: Click here to find out why you should fear the consequences of network-level ad-blocking. James O’Malley explores the implications of an ad-free web.

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