Australia’s second largest telco is looking at introducing ad-blocking technology across its network, several well placed sources have told Business Insider.
The telco has engaged in several meetings with Israel-based ad-blocking company Shine, which recently signed a deal with UK carrier Three to implement its software through the network.
The technology allows a telco to block all ads being served to devices on its network. It conceivably gives them the power to strike deals with publishers such as news websites, Google, and Facebook to receive a percentage of their ad revenue in order to have ads displayed to their customers across the network.
Such a deal would completely shake up the mobile space, both internationally and domestically. Optus has nearly 10 million customers, a huge chunk of eyeballs in the local ad market.
Executives from Optus first travelled to Tel Aviv in May last year to meet with Shine. Executives from other telcos also visited, but Optus was the only one to remain interested.
Shine has since made a trip to Australia to meet with the company, where more details were discussed. The two parties also had further chats last week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
While a deal is not yet signed, sources say it is very close and that the two sides are now discussing details and an implementation date, which still could be some time away.
For Optus, launching carrier wide ad-blocking would allow the telco to take a slice of the $100 billion worldwide mobile ad spend and fix the growing problem with telcos around their shrinking average revenue per user (ARPU).
Optus is a telco that struggling with its ARPU and is trying to find other ways to make up for it, including offering content such as the English Premier League.
For Shine’s rollout in Europe on the Three network, the carrier is promoting it as an option for customers to eliminate excess data usage due to heavy ads on websites.
In Three’s words, they don’t want to eliminate ads as a whole, but rather “give customers more control, choice and greater transparency over what they receive”.
“Millions of mobile devices without ads would cause major disruption to the advertising eco-system,” said Matt Berriman, founder of Unlockd, a company which offers users ads in return for cheaper mobile plans.
“This would mean many publishers, agencies and brands would need to re-distribute their media budgets and communication strategies to other channels.”
When approached, Optus would not comment to Business Insider.
At this stage it looks like Optus is the only Australian carrier to be legitimately looking at ad-blocking. Telstra has said they don’t have any plans to implement ad blocking, while they also own Ooyala, a company which makes anti-ad blocking technology. Vodafone has also straight up said it is not something the telco is looking at, both in its quarterly results and when approached for comment.
Although it might be worth keeping an eye on Vodafone, with one of their parent companies being Hutchison, the owner of the Three network in UK and Europe. On top of that, the Chairman of Hutchison Li Ka-shing is also one of the main financial backers of Shine.