Ad-supported free network comes to UK

One of the summer’s more interesting mobile launches will happen in Britain courtesy of a new MVNO. Blyk, a start-up run by the former president of Nokia, Pekka Ala-Pietila, will offer free calls and texts in return for users receiving adverts on their handsets.

Blyk has aready signed deals with big-brand advertisers including L’Oréal, Coca-Cola and Buena Vista. Also on board mobile gaming group I-Play, recruitment service StepStone and even Yell mobile – which suggests the possibility of location-based advertising options.

To avoid accusations of spamming, subscribers will be asked to give details of their likes and dislikes when they sign up, and although there is no billing relationship with the customer, there will be regular interaction through response mechanisms such as questionnaires. Said Ala-Pietila: “By understanding the preferences of our customers, advertisers will be able to create very relevant campaigns”.

This point obviously appealed to I-Play,  whose CEO David Gosen, said; “Blyk provides visibility on who and when people are playing mobile games, information which the industry has been sorely in need of. CRM is a basic business principle to driving revenues and building loyalty and we haven’t been able to put this in place until we have access to real data on what our customers are doing. Now, thanks to Blyk’s offering, we can start to have some transparency on this issue.”

Handling the dsitnguishing element of the Blyk service – the selection of which ads to offer which users, and the insertion of ads into media streams in real time, and the interaction with the operator’s own customer systems and the to make sure only relevant ads are served – is First Hop. The Finnish company has an existing service delivery platform which can create and control services on a sponsored or ad-funded basis; Blyk’s ad-based solution fits on top of this.

 Said Timo Laaksonen, CEO of First Hop: “It is a system based on usage tracking, profiling and segmentation that enables advertisers to target subscribers with relevant promotions based on their preferences.

“We believe that this new way of doing business will irrevocably change the industry and that eventually all mobile operators and service providers will adopt this business model, to a smaller or larger extent, to drive their core business.”

The network is being provided by Orange. Keith Greenfield, Director of Wholesale for Orange UK, said: “Our network is one of our greatest assets and by securing deals like this we are using its potential to the full”.

He also noted that Orange was the first operator to launch advertising on the mobile last year – “and feedback from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive. That makes Blyk’s approach even more exciting.”

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