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TalkTalk wants to set up mini mobile networks in customers’ homes

TalkTalk plans to boost call quality and reception in customer’s homes by creating a small-cell network. 

By using what chief executive Dido Harding calls an ‘inside-out mobile network,’ customers will be able to get better indoor coverage thanks to femtocells, tiny in-house devices acting as miniature mobile masts. 

Building on the idea of the Talk2Go app, TalkTalk customers will be able to get better reception in the home by making voice calls over this mini home network instead of the regular network. 

TalkTalk wants to set up mini mobile networks in customers' homes
No signal? No problem – TalkTalk wants to plug indoor coverage gaps with femtocells

Speaking to Bloomberg, Harding said that on average people make 40-50 per cent of mobile calls in the home, so giving in-home coverage a boost makes perfect sense. 

“We’ve got just under ten per cent of our [home broadband] customers taking mobile from us now. This is going to give us an opportunity to accelerate that and over time build to something called a small cell network. 

“Basically, to put a little mini mobile mast called a femtocell into our customers homes, all 4.2 million of them, and in doing so we’ll give them much better mobile coverage at home and also save them a lot of money.” 

Talk2Go lets customers save money by leveraging TalkTalk landline minutes instead of dipping into mobile allowances. The femtocell network will work in a similar fashion, routing calls over the TalkTalk network instead of mobile network. 

It’s not clear exactly when TalkTalk will be rolling out its small cell network. From December, TalkTalk will start bundling free mobile SIMs with its broadband and home packages. How enthusiastically these are received by customers could affect the shape and rate of TalkTalk’s femtocell rollout. 

Back in January we spotted plans for a future TalkTalk Super Router buried in the quarterly results. It’s possible that the next wireless router TalkTalk bundles with its services will include a femtocell alongside expected benefits like stronger and faster WiFi. 

The UK’s fourth biggest ISP also owns a small chunk of the 1800MHz band which it intends to use for 4G services. It’s expected that this will be used to boost 4G signal in the home as well. 

EE is currently experimenting with voice calls over 4G and WiFi. Unlike Talk2Go, O2’s TU Go and Virgin Media’s SmartCall the idea is that you wouldn’t have to sign in to a specific app to make calls over 4G or WiFi – it would just happen automatically.

It’s not known if TalkTalk is planning to take cues from EE here and bake WiFi-calling service Talk2Go in to its mobile service or if it will remain a separate entity. TalkTalk spokespeople declined to comment further. 

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