Alcatel-Lucent, German wireless carrier offer free minutes with mobile ads

Alcatel-Lucent today announced a deal with a wireless carrier in Germany that offers a glimpse into how mobile advertising could take shape in coming years.

German mobile carrier E-Plus is now using Acatel-Lucent’s new Advertising Selection Server to offer mobile users advertising pushing a variety of retail goods. E-Plus is a member of the KPN group of companies, which has 31 million mobile phone customers in German, Belgium and the Netherlands, according to the KPN Web site.

Alacatel-Lucent is also working with the ng Connect Program, a new industry group that will bring together device manufacturers, application developers and content providers who are creating products that utilize 4G wireless technologies.

E-Plus subsidiary Gettings has been collecting information for about two weeks from mobile customers who consent to receive a variety of ads to their mobile devices. The actual ads will begin shipping this week, Alcatel-Lucent officials said.

Gettings has an online description of the service in German.

The ad server is provided to the carrier as a hosted service, and is used to collect and store data that customers give voluntarily about themselves. The carrier also uses the server to deliver the ads via SMS, MMS and a WAP browser, with a mix of ads that are pushed to users or requested by the users.

Customers opt in to the service in return for getting free minutes or free texts, or some other benefit, said Kurt Broucke, product manager for Alcatel-Lucent. For example, a customer might get a 2-Euro credit per month for receiving a certain number of ads. With Gettings, users receive 10 to 25 ads a week, but the user can set the criteria stored on the server, such as restricting the delivery of ads after 8 p.m., he said.

With the profile data a customer opt-in provides, the carrier and the advertisers will know the user’s sex, age and perhaps other information that can help them offer ads that are generally customized and that the user will more likely pay attention to. More importantly, users choose their areas of interest and the kinds of ads they might want to receive.

“It’s important that this is not seen as spam,” Broucke said. “And it’s important that ads are of interest to end users.”

In a statement, Daniel Euler, managing directo of Gettings, added, “Advertising must not be perceived as a nuisance. This is especially true for ads on a mobile phone.”

Alcatel-Lucent did not detail the cost of the service to carriers, but it did say it is generally available globally. Carriers are clamoring for ways to supplement revenue, and a variety of Alcatel-Lucent competitors are investing in developing ad serving technology, a spokesman said.

Alcatel-Lucent expects the mobile advertising market to be healthy in Europe as well as in the U.S., he said. In the U.S., the total mobile advertising market was about $160 million in 2008, but is expected to explode to $3.1 billion in 2013, according to the Kelsey Group.

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