Mobile provider Three will run an ad-blocking trial in the UK in its first attempt to remove ads for all of its customers.

Testing will take 24 hours and is set to be carried out in the week starting June 13 as an opt-in service. It isn’t clear what exactly this will involve, but Shine, an Israeli tech provider, confirmed it will handle Three’s blocking requests across “all of the mobile web,” which will include advertising within apps.

The network says the current ad model is simply not working and has ordered a test of something that could eradicate traces of it from its network.

“It frustrates customers, eats up their data allowance and can jeopardise their privacy. Something needs to change,” said Tom Malleschitz, Three’s chief marketing officer.

Plan of action

Three claims it doesn’t want to get rid of ads completely, but it does believe that users should not pay for the data consumed by the inventory served on its network.

Interestingly, the company also argues for users to seek protection from the advertisers who track their activity at the same time as calling for more relevance and targeting from what they see.

The carrier is planning to get in touch with all its customers to ask them to sign up for the test before it’s launch next month.

“This is the next step in our journey to make mobile ads better for our customers,” said Malleschitz.

Uncertain future

Although the carrier wants to collaborate with various parties to improve the current model, the service trial is unlikely to go down well with companies relying on revenue from online ads.

Three is one of the UK’s largest mobile operators with over 10 million customers and such a stance could have a massive impact on the advertising industry and the people it serves.

Blocking adverts is still more popular on desktops rather than mobile phones, but releasing a network-based ad blocker could significantly affect many publishers, posing a risk to their businesses.

IAB UK’s director of data and industry programmes, Steve Chester, said the organisation is engaging with Three on this topic and would rather encourage companies to support its L.E.A.N initiative as it addresses the reasons why people block ads.

“We’re all committed to solving the ad blocking issue but disagree with Three’s approach that network-level ad blocking is the way to go.

“It’s a broad-brush approach that the largest media owners can probably survive but not the long-tail of smaller ones. In the long-term consumers will also lose out, as they’ll likely have to pay for services that are currently free because they’re supported by advertising,” he said.

The mobile provider highlights that its focus is to improve the customer experience, but monetising the businesses that help create this arguably has to represent an important step.

“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,” explained Malleschitz.