Free mobile calls revolution

Mobile users can use existing handsets to get free calls

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 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, and StepStone.

Ad awareness

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.

Other UK mobile networks have recently adopted the concept of ad-related free content, with 3 UK boosting its free content range this month with targeted advertising packaged around video downloads.