Advertising-funded MVNO Blyk plans to extend its European operations with launches in Belgium, Germany and Spain next year. The company launched in the UK in September 2007 and has previously announced plans to open in the Netherlands in the second half of this year. Blyk is a mobile phone service that offers a number of free calls and text messages to 16 to 24 year-olds in return for users accepting advertisements. Its UK operation – which runs over Orange’s network – hit its target of 100,000 UK subscribers in April, six months ahead of schedule.

Blyk looks set to face strong competition in its new markets. Reuters notes that Germany’s mobile operators – T-Mobile, Vodafone, E-Plus and O2 – are competing hard on price, whilst the situation is similar in Spain, where Telefonica, Vodafone and Orange compete with a number of virtual operators for ownership of the 350,000 people who churn from one operator to another each month. Blyk’s ex-Nokia management team told Reuters that the company is in advanced talks with operators over network renting in the new markets. Blyk believes that Germany and Spain are among Europe’s biggest ad markets. Meanwhile, Belgium ad spending per capita is among the region’s highest, according to Blyk’s co-founder and chairman, Pekka Ala-Pietila. The MVNO claims its ad campaigns – from the likes of Adidas, L’Oreal and Manchester United – generate average response rates of 29 percent, compared with the usual response rates in advertising of just a few percentage points. Blyk plans to open in more European countries later.