TalkTalk 5G in the UK

TalkTalk isn’t the most major of mobile networks, especially as it doesn’t even offer 4G currently, but 4G is coming, and one day 5G likely will be as well.

Here’s an overview of how TalkTalk (which is currently a Vodafone MVNO but is soon set to be an O2 one) stands out now, and where it’s likely to stand if and when it launches a 5G network.

Why TalkTalk is uniquely positioned

TalkTalk currently relies on Vodafone’s infrastructure, but in the near future it’s set to switch to O2, and at that point it’s likely to offer a more modern service, including the introduction of 4G.

That’s fine for now, but what about the future? Well, relying on O2 could put it in a strong position, as O2 has a solid amount of spectrum and is very likely to acquire more during the upcoming 5G spectrum auction.

Of course, rival networks are sure to acquire additional spectrum too, but at least one of them, namely EE, will be limited in what it can bid on, as it already holds so much ‘immediately useable’ spectrum that it’s been forbidden from bidding on any in the 2.3GHz band – limiting it to the 3.4GHz band and lessening O2’s auction competition.

TalkTalk’s 5G ambitions

Given that TalkTalk doesn’t even offer 4G yet it could be that it won’t be quick to offer 5G, but if so that will likely be by choice, rather than any limitations placed on it by partnering with O2, as the signs are promising that O2 could be fast to market with 5G.

O2 has already built a network of around 1,400 small cells in Greater London - a technology which is likely to be at the heart of its future 5G network, so when it does roll out 5G it - and by extension TalkTalk - might not need as much new infrastructure as some networks.

O2 has also carried out a study of the incoming mobile technology, and found that “national 5G infrastructure will directly contribute an additional £7 billion a year to the UK economy just six years from rollout” – which is just half the time it took for fibre broadband to make a similar impact.

As such, O2 is sure to want to get in on the ground floor, and it’s already experimenting with the Internet of Things (and with a particular focus on self-driving cars), which could be an important use of 5G technology.

So if TalkTalk decides it wants to launch 5G quickly it will probably be in a position to, assuming it’s still using O2’s infrastructure – though we’re talking 2020 at the very earliest, as no UK network is likely to offer a commercial 5G service before then.

And right now, TalkTalk stands out through low prices and inclusive tethering – two things which it might continue to offer when 5G is available.

What TalkTalk says about the 5G future

Given that TalkTalk might not even offer 5G for a long time it’s no surprise that we’re not hearing anything about where it sees 5G taking us yet, but O2, which is likely to be powering its 5G network, has made some comments.

For example, Mark Evans, CEO of O2, said: “Mobile is the invisible infrastructure that can drive the economy of post-Brexit Britain. The future of 5G promises a much quicker return on investment than fibre broadband, and a range of unprecedented benefits: from telecare health applications to smarter cities to more seamless public services.”

And Dr Mike Short CBE, Vice President of Telefonica said: “From a consumer point of view I think 5G offers all sorts of options. There’ll be much more flexible working, so if they live in a smart home the ability to live and work and be educated at home will be much more readily available.

“I think things like smart cities will mean they’ll be better informed before they go into a smart city, whether it be parking, or congestion, or accident avoidance.”


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