FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Digicel Group [DCEL.N] is to deploy ad-blocking software on mobile networks in its Caribbean and Asia Pacific markets, it said on Wednesday, making it one of the first mobile operators to join the battle between internet users and advertisers.
Israeli ad-blocking software maker Shine Technologies and Digicel said in a joint statement that the Kingston, Jamaica-based operator was going to install its software on its networks, starting with Jamaica itself and then rolling it out to its many other national markets across the Caribbean and in the Asia Pacific region.
The use of ad-blocking software has been growing rapidly on desktop computers but until now has been rare on mobiles.
Some 200 million people used ad blockers last year, up 40 percent from a year earlier, resulting in $22 billion in lost advertising revenue, according to a study by Adobe and PageFair, an anti ad-blocking technology company.
Although only about 5 percent of nternet users globally use the tools, they are especially popular in Europe. In Germany and Poland, for instance, the figure is above 30 percent.
Broad adoption of ad-blocking would bring a new set of problems for online publishers, many of whom are already struggling with plummeting ad prices.
With its lates operating software released last month Apple Inc has for the first time allowed users to install ad-blocking apps on its iPhones and iPads.
Ad-blocking tools should help web pages load much faster on mobiles, as they strip out so-called scripts and trackers that are used to serve up the ads. Some early pilots have shown media outlets like Vice and the New York Times loading twice as fast.
Surfing the web with fewer ads will also mean fewer megabytes of data allowances consumed by phone users.
Last week Digicel said it was set to raise as much as $2 billion from an initial public offering in the United States, with the shares expected to be priced at $13-16 apiece to value the company at as much as $5 billion.
(Reporting by Harro ten Wolde; Editing by Greg Mahlich)