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UK carrier Three to block ads at the network level

Online advertisers won't be happy.

Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a landmark move for the UK's wireless industry, Three has inked a deal with Shine that will enable ad-blocking across its network. The decision will, according to Three, give customers "control, choice and greater transparency" over the ads that appear on their devices. It won't, however, eliminate advertising entirely -- just the worst offenders, the pair claim.

The controversial technology will be used initially on Three's UK and Italian networks, before a "rapid roll-out" in other markets. The necessary changes have been implemented, however the scheme isn't live just yet -- Three says it'll explain the specifics "over the coming months."

Three UK is positioning the partnership as a pro-consumer manoeuvre. In a press release, the carrier says ad-blocking will be used to achieve "three principle goals" -- reducing data costs, protecting its customers from malware-riddled ads, and ensuring subscribers receive ads that are targeted and engaging, rather than intrusive and irrelevant.

EE and and O2 are considering similar tactics.

But there are concerns that such a system will be used by mobile networks to siphon money from online advertisers. Companies are already paying Adblock Plus, one of the most popular ad-blocking tools, to "whitelist" their sites and ad networks. But while adblockers are growing in popularity, they're still a little-used tool among the entire populace. Offering that technology at the network level could increase their usage dramatically and jeopardise businesses that rely on ad revenue.

Shine says its objective is to protect consumers from malware, and claims its ad-blocking technology is the "strongest line of defence" for customers who want to protect themselves from exploitative advertisers. "Shine now has boots on the ground in Europe," the company said in a statement. "This answers any speculation about the possibility of rolling out network-level ad-blocking in Europe. It's now a fact." It later described Three's British and Italian operations as a "European beachhead" for the company: "Expect more European carriers to roll out Shine this year."