UK mobile users will be able to enjoy free calls, texts and mobile internet access from this summer, in return for getting adverts pinged to their phones, following a groundbreaking network deal announced today between new ad-funded mobile operator Blyk and Orange .
Blyk is Europe's first mobile operator to offer free calls and texts in return for advertising sent to users' mobile phones. The long-term deal will see Blyk roll out its service this summer as a "virtual network" under its own brand, but carried on the Orange network. The service is aimed primarily at 16-24 year-olds, and uses a sophisticated profiling system to target advertising at relevant demographics.
A spokesperson for Blyk told Tech.co.uk that Blyk intends to make the service available to people on their existing handsets, but was unable to confirm whether Blyk-branded handsets as well as SIM cards would be part of the offering at launch.
Among the first advertisers already lined up for the Blyk service are Coca-Cola, Buena Vista, L'Oreal Paris, I-play Mobile Gaming, Yell.com and StepStone.
Commenting on the potential issue of intrusiveness of mobile advertising, the Blyk spokesperson commented: "Any advertising has to be relevant to the user and can't interfere with the users' day-to-day life - it has to be a quality experience. That's why Blyk is using sophisticated profiling for users before they sign up."
Blyk was founded by Pekka Ala-Pietilä, a former president of Nokia, and Antti Öhrling, CEO with ad agency Contra Group, and has been in development since January last year.