Word is that Walmart Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. are in discussions to outfit the retailer’s stores with antennas and other equipment to create 5G wireless service, a high-profile test of the next-generation networks.
The plan would initially bring 5G service to a pair of locations this year to power new Walmart digital health services the retailer aims to start offering to shoppers and employees, according to people familiar with the matter. It would also provide faster wireless connections for other store operations and the surrounding community, the people said.
If a deal is signed, it would be part of an effort inside the country’s largest retailer to remake its roughly 4,700 U.S. stores into hubs that draw shoppers for medical treatment and other services, not just groceries and clothes. Walmart also could use the 5G services to improve cameras alerting staff to shoplifters or scanning shelves for out-of-stock inventory.
Verizon, meanwhile, has put building a faster 5G network and finding new ways to use it at the center of its corporate strategy. Executives have pitched 5G’s faster speeds and lower latency—the amount of time that machines take to respond to each other—to manufacturers and hospitals as a way to spur automation and put computing power closer to industrial applications.