altTelefónica and private equity firm Blackstone are to launch what they are claiming is the first mobile ad exchange platform owned and powered by an operator.

The two companies have set up a new company, Axonix, based around programmatic platform MobClix.

Axonix is a self-serve “mobile only” marketplace that enables advertisers and publishers to buy and sell advertising space in real time.

The company takes a cut each time an advert is sold, a figure that is usually between 15-20 percent of the transaction fee.

[Read more: MobClix platform behind Telefónica’s new mobile advertising auction house]

Simon Birkenhead, who has left his position as Telefónica’s Director of Global Advertising Sales to head up Axonix, told European Communications that the company is taking on Twitter-owned Mopub and Facebook as the mobile advertising space hots up.

According to figures from ZenithOptimedia, €9.7 billion was spent on mobile ads last year, equating to some 13 percent of all internet ad spend and 2.7 percent of all global ad spend.

By 2016 it’s estimated that this figure will rise to €32.5 billion, or 28 percent of internet ad spend and 7.6 percent of total ad investments.

Birkenhead commented: “Even if we take a tiny part of the market that represents big business.”

Axonix will officially switch on in early May as Birkenhead said the company already had “tens of thousands” of publishers signed up as well as “over 100” of demand-side partners, including byyd, which is used by the UK operator-run m-payments joint venture Weve.

According to the CEO, Axonix has an advantage over its rivals in that it can add Telefónica’s exisiting subscriber data, which can be anonymised and aggregated, to improve ad relevancy and performance.

Further, it is truly a "mobile only" business whereas some of the other tech companies in the space are really only focused on the desktop, Birkenhead claimed.

Axonix will launch on a global basis, although it will have a specific focus on the US, Europe and Latin America.

Other companies in the space such as Google are “not interested” in countries such as Germany, Birkenhead claimed.

“We’re proud to be the first telecoms company in the world to own and power a mobile ad exchange platform,” commented Stephen Shurrock, CEO of Digital Service & Innovation at Telefónica.

“We expect to become one of the leading global technology platforms in the mobile programmatic advertising industry."

The operator said Aconix will “enhance” its “already strong” advertising proposition. Last year, for example, Telefónica and US-based operator Sprint announced a partnership focused on growing scale in the mobile advertising space.

Birkenhead will be replaced and new launches are planned, although there will be an organisational restructure at the Spain-based operator.

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