Network Level Ad-Blocking is ‘Unworkable’ says Telco Expert

ThreeNetwork level ad-blocking – such as that being pushed by mobile operator Three in the UK in conjunction with ad blocking company Shine – looks likely to be ‘unworkable’ and could cause an array of regulatory and reputational challenges for mobile operators, according to a leading telco expert. Speaking in an episode of Trader Talk, a weekly video session produced by Exchangewire, Dean Bubley, founder at Disruptive Analysis, said he believed that network level ad blocking is ‘neither a good idea or a workable one’.

Some of the key points Bubley raised with Exchangewire CEO Ciaran O’Kane included:

  • Firstly, in-app advertising is much harder to identify due to encryption, meaning that telco networks are powerless to stop most ads. While some are ‘spottable’, Bubley said that web-style ads would be more susceptible.
  • Smaller app developers would be the most vulnerable to ad-blocking, while the likes of Google and Facebook are most likely to emerge relatively unscathed.
  • A huge chunk of mobile traffic is over wifi, which bypasses the mobile network.

While ad blocking companies sometimes market themselves as saving consumers money, Bubley said that the amount of data consumed by advertising doesn’t amount to much anyway. Bubley estimates that a user with a 5GB data deal is unlikely to feel particularly strongly about 50MB (about one percent) of their allowance going on ads.

Regulation and Reputation

Bubley also floated some interesting points about the regulatory and reputational pitfalls of network level ad blocking. For example, is it legal to block ads promoting voter registration?  And can the technology discriminate between certain types of ads: so is it ethical to block ads promoting a charity appeal following an earthquake?

Then there’s competition. Is it possible, for example, for Three to block the ads of rival operators, or would that be a breach of competition regulations.

Bubley concluded by saying that he believed that ulimately he believed that ad blocking wouldn’t generate meaningful revenue and that he felt he couldn’t be certain it would create other problems elsewhere due to ‘collateral damage’.

When asked by VAN to comment on the video, Roi Carthy, CMO of Shine, said, “I’ll make sure to pass Bubley’s expert insights to the folks on Shine’s Ops and Integration teams. I’m sure they’ll all be happy to pack-up and fly back home early.”

You can watch the episode in full here.

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