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Germany, Spain and Belgium get free mobile calls

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Ad-financed network operator Blyk has announced plans for expansion into Germany, Belgium and Spain, taking the concept of mobile-phone operator for freeloaders right across Europe.

Blyk customers get 43 free minutes and 217 text messages in exchange for receiving targeted adverts based on the demographic information they provide on signing up. The virtual operator - it piggybacks on the Orange network in the UK - is aimed at punters aged between 16 and 24, though disappointingly there's no ritual disconnection when you hit 25.

The network was originally exclusive in that customers could only sign up when invited by an existing customer or at a road-show. But as we noted last time we wrote about the company it was offering a "limited time" sign up on its web site and now anyone is free to join up - the exclusivity having served it's promotional purpose.

What surprising about Blyk is that it seems to be working, with more than 100,000 customers signed up and over 900 campaigns run to pay for their usage. The company blog reports a response rate of 29 per cent to MMS-delivered advertising, and a promotion with Penguin books saw seventy per cent of punters responding (pdf).

Paying for a whole MNVO through advertising seemed impossible, and if the economy takes a turn for the worse then it might still prove to be so, but Blyk has certainly made a credible effort. If the company can prove it works then surely a Google Phone can't be far off. ®

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