For all the benefits that 5G is promised to bring, many carriers try to avoid or downplay the disadvantages, particularly of the top mmWave spectrum. Those can only travel shorter distances and are easily blocked by walls. While those factors make it seem less ideal in wide-open spaces, they are almost perfect for use indoors. Walmart and Verizon are reportedly in discussions to take advantage of that in order to turn Walmart stores not just into community hubs but health care centers as well.
Imagine walking into Walmart not just to check off items in your grocery list but also to see a doctor. Of course, you will end up filling out your prescriptions from Walmart as well. That’s part of the vision that Walmart apparently has planned to turn its stores into more than just shopping centers and into low-cost health care hubs.
5G, specifically Verizon’s, is an important building block to making that vision a reality. While it’s possible with 4G, the low-latency data transfer that 5G promises make it a lot easier for doctors and health care workers to interact with shoppers, er patients rather, via video chat.
5G also has benefits on Walmart’s retail and logistics operations, of course. The high-speed network could make communicating between empty shelves and the store’s inventory system much faster, while security cameras are also able to detect and report shoplifters in a more timely manner. And then there’s the potential for Walmart stores to become hubs where communities can gather to get their Internet fix. For a price, of course.
For Verizon, such a partnership would be a much-needed validation and rollout of its 5G network. Adoption of 5G hasn’t exactly been as fast as network operators would hope, especially given the number of equipment installations they need to do. Localizing those in locations like Walmart stores could hit two birds with one stone.