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Completely free mobile phones (and pizza?)

We're used to getting mobile phones for 'free' alongside a 12-month contract from the likes of O2, Vodafone or Orange, but how about getting a free phone and free calls for as long as you like?

That's the deal on the table from Blyk, which is targeting students with a new advertising-supported service it says could give up to 4.5m young people in the UK an extra few pounds per month to spend on books (and beer).

Blyk, established by former Nokia president Pekka Ala-Pietila, has teamed up with 30 UK universities to promote the new service inside Fresher's Week packs, and is offering students 217 free texts and 43 minutes of talk time per month on Orange's network.

To sign up, students will be required to fill in demographic and lifestyle questions and their answers will be used to target mobile phone-based advertising from the likes of McDonald's, Cola Cola and L'Oreal. Blyk 'subscribers' will be sent a new SIM card, which they can place in their existing phone while keeping their old phone number.

With mobile phones added to the list of free hardware, software and services now available in the UK - a list which already includes free laptops, free broadband and free office software – what's next for advertising-supported products?

A tongue-in-cheek comment on Buzzmachine blog (as reported in today's Guardian) suggests "the next step is free pizza, supported by ads on the box"!

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