EE Could Allow Ad Blocking At Network Level

EE CEO Olaf Swantee says operator is having strategic review to see whether customers should be allowed to control their mobile experience

EE is investigating the possibility of blocking online adverts at a network level.

It is a move that will likely cause concern among digital publishers and advertisers who are already having to deal with an increase in popularity of ad blockers on PCs and mobile phones.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, EE CEO Olaf Swantee said the operator had launched a “strategic review” into the possibility with the suggestion being that users could choose to limit the frequency and type of advertising they see in their browser or in apps.

“For EE, this is not about ad blocking, but about starting an important debate around customer choice, controls and the level of ads customers receive,” he is quoted as saying. “This is an important debate that needs to happen soon. That’s why we’ve kicked off a strategic review internally to start considering our plans.

“Advertising, when done well, can be a valued part of the experience.”

Read More: What Does AdBlock Plus Mean For The Future Of Online Publishers?

EE Ad blocking

EE 4G (7)Ad blockers are used by 18 percent of UK web users, while it is estimated that the practice could cost publishers £14 billion worldwide in 2015 alone.

Half of Brits said they would stop using ad blockers if online ads didn’t interfere with what they were doing on a web page, while 36 percent said they would disable such software if ads were more relevant. Of those who use ad blockers, 71 percent do so on a laptop, 47 percent on a desktop, 23 percent on a mobile and 19 percent on a tablet.

The popularity of ad blockers on mobile phones is likely to increase now that Apple has enabled them in Safari, with many users claiming resource intensive adverts drain battery life and consume data – something which network level ad blockers would prevent. One iOS ad blocker, which promised to block adverts in some applications, achieved this by re-routing traffic through its own VPN.

Danger to publishers

There have also been a rise in malvertising attacks, which infiltrate advertising networks with dodgy creatives in the hope of infecting users.

The Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB UK) believes the popularity of ad blockers is a sign that current adverts are too intrusive and suggests consumers are unaware of the consequences of lost revenue to publishers

However, the impact is being keenly felt by media companies who are struggling to monetise their content.

“We cannot take [ad blocking] lying down,” said Erik Moreno at the Huawei Mobile Broadband Forum in Hong Kong earlier this month. “Sending a reporter to Syria takes money and talent.”

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