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Blyk stalls

The launch of Europe’s first ad-funded mobile service provider Blyk has been postponed. The MVNO was due to launch early this summer in the UK, however, according to reports in British newspaper the Guardian consumers will have to wait until October at the earliest before they can sign up.

The news will not come as too much of a surprise to those following developments at Blyk. The firm, headed by the former chief of Nokia Pekka Ala-Pietila, has remained extremely tight-lipped over a lot of the finer details regarding its service.

The company has already signed up a handful of major brands, including Buena Vista, Coca-Cola, I-play Mobile Gaming, L’Oreal Paris, StepStone and Yell.com. Ovum analysts said that the initial announcements of advertising partners, “is an encouraging start, but the in order for it to be a success we would expect to see more advertisers signed up prior to its planned launch.”

Details on handsets, whether the service would be part-funded by subscriptions and how many advertisements subscribers would have to view in return for minutes have been thin on the ground.

The plausibility of ad-funded mobile services is a hotly contested subject. For every backer, there are plenty of contractors. The truth of the matter is ad-funded services have displayed limited success to date. With so many question marks hanging over Blyk and a lack of any major marketing, a postponement was fairly predictable.

One piece of positive news in the ad-funded MVNO sector comes from Virgin Mobile USA which reckons over 1000 new customers per day have been signing up to its Sugar Mama “airtime in their sparetime” ad-backed service since its launch one year ago. According to the the carrier Sugar Mama users have earned nine million minutes of free airtime in return for watching certian ads.

The Blyk news comes at a time when the MVNO market is looking at its most fragile. The recent, and relatively sudden, bankruptcy of Helio in the US will have done nothing to settle the nerves of Blyk’s backers.

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