Nearly a year after making noise with its audacious plans to help wireless operators block the advertisements of companies that don't pay to play, startup Shine has revealed its first customer: Caribbean's Digicel.
Israel-based Shine Technologies has developed technology that lets wireless operators block display and video ads, whether in apps or browsers, as if they were malware, forcing the ad network to strike a deal with the operator if it wants to be displayed. (See Operators Should Block Ads to Get Their Cut, Startup Says .)
Digicel Group will deploy the ad-blocking tech in its networks starting in Jamaica and rolling out to other parts of the Caribbean and South Pacific in the coming months. It specifically called out Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Facebook and Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) in announcing its plans, noting that this should encourage them to "enter into revenue-sharing agreements with it so that this money in turn can be reinvested in network deployment and ultimately the bridging of the digital divide."
According to Shine, ads eat up as much as 10% of a customer's data plan. Shine's beef, which many operators share, is that these ad companies don't pay to use their networks, instead using up bandwidth and benefiting from customer eyeballs at their expense.
"Companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook talk a great game and take a lot of credit when it comes to pushing the idea of broadband for all -- but they put no money in," Digicel Chairman Denis O'Brien said in the release. "Instead they unashamedly trade off the efforts and investments of network operators like Digicel to make money for themselves. That's unacceptable, and we as a network operator, are taking a stand against them to force them to put their hands in their pockets and play a real role in improving the opportunities for economic empowerment for the global population."
Digicel is Shine's first announced customer, but Shine CMO Roi Carthy says it's working with others that it cannot name. He told us last year that deployments would likely start in Europe, given that the US isn't as friendly to ad blocking and more sensitive to net neutrality. The startup recently took out ads in Europe calling on the GSM Association (GSMA) to zero-rate mobile ads.
Even in the US, however, the tide is starting to turn. Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) enabled ad blocking apps in its iOS 9 release, which should help to make it more commonly accepted. As to whether the big guys like Google, Facebook and Yahoo will cough up for access to Digicel's customers, Carthy thinks Digicel's O'Brien, Ireland's richest man who has a long track record of disruption, has the chops to pull it off.
"What I can tell you is that anyone who knows of Denis O'Brien knows he's not kidding around," he says. "If Denis believes he can negotiate rev-share with the big boys, then I would take him at his word."
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading