The experiment would be a high-profile test of the next-generation tech.
The plan is to bring the tech to a pair of Walmart locations later this year in order to test new digital health practices the retailer wants to start offering to employees and shoppers. The tech would also have the effect of providing faster wireless connections for the other store operations and for the surrounding community, according to people familiar with the plans.
If the deal is signed, it would be the beginning of an effort to remake Walmart’s roughly 4,700 stores into hubs for medical treatment and other services beyond the scope of the retailer’s previous focus on groceries and clothes.
Walmart may also use the 5G technology in order to improve cameras, which could help identify shoplifters and also alert staff to diminishing inventory around the large store areas.
Verizon’s strategy of late has incorporated 5G as a major factor. The company’s leaders have talked fondly of 5G’s potential for fast speeds and less latency (the time it takes for various machines to respond to one another).
Verizon has talked up the benefits to leaders in the hospitality and manufacturing industry as the tech of the future, with ways to spur automation and speed computing power closer to industrial levels.
But 5G networks are still very new overall, with a long way to go in terms of the number of antennas available before the high speeds become a universal reality for customers. Verizon and its competitors have only been able to implement 5G in some cities and areas, meaning its reach has been limited thus far.
According to some people familiar with Walmart and Verizon’s discussions, Walmart could use the tech to bolster its medical services and other new experiments.