SA mobile networks say no to ad blocking

Intrusive advertising has an impact on mobile data. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Intrusive advertising has an impact on mobile data. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town – Local mobile operators say they are not investigating network level ad blocking services, at least for now.

About 20% of data traffic on a smartphone is intrusive advertising, according to a research note from Strand Consult.

And in February, European carriers Three UK and Three Italy announced that they would implement a consumer ad block service using technology from ad-blocker startup Shine. 

But local networks say they're not looking network-level ad-blocking yet.

READ: Advertising gobbles 20% of your mobile data

“For now, we are not investing in network level ad blocking and are not planning to do so in the foreseeable future,” Karin Fourie executive head of communications for Cell C told Fin24.

Meanwhile, MTN has also said it's not looking at network level ad blocking.

"MTN is currently not planning to implement a network level ad blocking. However, this does not mean MTN will not consider implementing ad blocking should it become a customer or regulatory requirement," Benjamin Marais, chief information officer MTN [JSE:MTN] SA told Fin24.

Vodacom [JSE:VOD] conceded that its customers download ad blocking applications.

“Vodacom has no fixed plans to introduce ad blocking. However, downloads of ad blocker apps show there is some demand from customers to manage their browsing experience, privacy and data usage,” Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy told Fin24.

Mobile advertising is big business as companies rush to place their ads on small screens. According to eMarketer, mobile advertising in 2016 will hit $100bn, accounting for more than half of digital advertising spend.

READ: Hands off my data, Fin24 users fume

Strand Consult said that ad blocking has emerged as a “digital self-defence” against intrusive advertising on mobile devices.

“Understandably at least 200 million users have downloaded ad blocking software to protect their user experience and economise on their mobile subscription. The market for ad blocking is a big and growing, as consumers use these tools as a form of digital self-defence,” said the Copenhagen-based organisation.

Apple recently introduced ad blocking in its mobile operating system. However, some have argued that network level ad blocking - as proposed by some international operators - may fall foul of net neutrality rules.

Net neutrality implies that all data traffic is treated equally regardless of who the sender, receiver or what the content is.

“It [ad blocking] would likely be in conflict with the principles of net neutrality rules, as reflected in policy documents in SA. With reference to the national integrated policy review report,” said Vodacom's Byron Kennedy.

Strand Consult, though, argued that network level ad blocking would save mobile users from data that would be discarded in any event.

“While blocking unwanted content at the end-user’s device is the method of today, it is not ideal. The actual suggested practice of implementing fine-tuned firewalls and network access-lists is to block at network boundaries, as close to the content source as possible. Such configuration saves network capacity used by data that will be discarded at the customer device.”

Advertising drives online publication and Strand Consult said that ad blocking would force publishers to develop new revenue models.

“For a number of ad-driven businesses such as news, they have already started transitioning to full and partial fee-based models. The benefit of course is closer relationship with users, a new appreciation from customers about the value of the product (hence agreement to pay), and improved advertising with preferred advertisers,” said the organisation.

Let us know how you think local networks should handle advertising

WATCH this online video on how ad blocking could affect the publishing industry:

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