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Free mobile phone firm Blyk closes UK service

Ad-supported calls and texts don't pay

Blyk has announced that it will close its advertising-supported mobile phone service in the UK.

The company offered free calls and text messaging to those willing to receive targeted advertising on their mobile phones. A so-called mobile virtual network operator, it owned no network infrastructure of its own, renting capacity on another network to deliver calls.

Blyk UK is no longer accepting new customers and will cease operations on August 26, giving those who wish to keep their mobile phone number time to transfer it to another operator.

The service's demise comes as Google ramps up its free telephony service, Google Voice.

However, Blyk appears to be going ahead with plans to expand in the Netherlands. Last Thursday, it announced a partnership with network operator Vodafone, which will carry traffic for its service there.

When Blyk launched in the UK last year, it said it also planned to offer service in Belgium, Germany and Spain. However, the company's Belgian website gives only the barest presentation in French and Flemish - "Already a success in the UK, Blyk is coming to Belgium" and invites 16- to 24-year-olds to leave their email addresses to be informed when the service launches.

The German and Spanish sites are similar. Neither they nor the Belgian site contain any links to affinity groups on the kinds of social-networking services that the target age group is likely to be using instead of email to communicate. The Dutch site, at least, offers links to Blyk accounts on Flickr, Twitter, Hyves, MySpace, YouTube and the professional social networking site LinkedIn.

Blyk isn't abandoning the UK completely: it intends to reinvent itself as a consultant to other mobile operators, in the UK and elsewhere, offering advice on setting up advertising-funded services, according to the Blyk website.

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