Walmart and Verizon are in talks to install antennas and other equipment in the retailer’s stores to create and test 5G wireless networks, The Wall Street Journal reports. The plan would deploy 5G service in two locations in 2020 and power new Walmart digital health services that the retailer wants to offer to its employees and customers. The sources said 5G would provide faster wireless communications for additional store operations, as well as the neighboring community.
Walmart—clothes and grocery store turned tech hub?
If Walmart and Verizon strike a deal, it would launch a plan to turn the retailer’s 4,700 stores into technology hubs that entice customers for medical treatment and other services rather than just clothing and groceries. The retailer could also use 5G to improve its security camera system or scanning shelves to see what’s out of stock.
Verizon makes its 5G pitch
Verizon has continued make building a faster 5G network and finding new ways to use it as its corporate strategy centerpiece. The carrier’s executives have pitched 5G’s faster speeds and lower latency to manufacturers and hospitals as a method to boost automation and bring computing power closer to industrial applications, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The faster 5G networks are still in the early stages, however. Carriers still have to add thousands of new antennas because 5G signals don’t typically travel far. As of now, Verizon, and other major US carriers, have only built out 5G service in certain cities and sports arenas. The carriers also have to count on customers purchasing new 5G-capable devices to use the new networks.
Verizon 5G, Walmart and healthcare
In terms of healthcare, Verizon and Walmart envision shoppers allowing their medical data to be stored in an app that detects when they walk into a Walmart. The customer would be able to self-register for their preventive care visit, according to sources. When the appointment is finished, the customer could grab their prescription and do any other shopping they need to. Meanwhile, Walmart’s 5G network can see what items the customer grabbed so the store knows what needs to be restocked.
It is possible for some use cases to work with current 4G networks, but Verizon executives said 5G offers lower latency that enables real-time communication and better network security, The Wall Street Journal reports. The latter is critical to providing more healthcare related services. With 5G, a doctor in a remote location can read a patient’s vitals, watch them walk on a treadmill and analyze the patient’s test results in real time.
When it comes to 5G, Verizon isn’t alone
There are other companies looking into leveraging 5G wireless. Everest Infrastructure Partners is pitching real estate investment trusts (REIT) and CRE owners on renting access to their rooftops for telecom equipment. CRE owners and the REITs could potentially make $1 million a year from carriers by doing so. Everest Director of CRE Rick Kimball told The Wall Street Journal the idea came from 5G networks needing more antennas placed closer to customers. Earlier generations of wireless service just needed equipment that was installed on tall towers.
“That alone has changed the rules,” Kimball said.