Walmart Communications – A Look Into the Future
I’m not sure if you’re interested in the wireless world like I am. It’s an avid hobby of mine, since I was a kid really. (See my Wi-Fi post on June 7th.) It’s really getting to be exciting, however.
There are two technologies that are going to take the wireless world into a whole different realm.
They are Ultra Wideband and WiMax. I’ll talk about Ultra Wideband in some other post. (The possibilities of Ultra Wideband are even more outrageous than WiMax, but it deserves a post all by itself.)
WiMax is a Wi-Fi standard that’s being developed by a consortium of companies, chiefly spearheaded by Intel at this point. What it will do is allow for any Tom, Dick or Harry podunk company to buy a T-1 and basically feed a whole town internet access and other wireless services, on the cheap, bypassing the telecoms. Don’t think the telecoms aren’t biting their nails over this one.
But I’d like to touch on a very real possibility. Wi-Max has an effective NON-line-of-sight (crucial feature) radius of around 30 miles from the source transmission. It can deliver of 100 MB/sec at these distances (your mileage may vary, according to terrain…etc.)
These stats led me down a “plausible scenario” road (which happens to me 100 times a day it seems). What company has hugely deep pockets and owns real estate (a building) every 20 or 30 miles in major cities (and small ones) all across America?
Imagine this scenario… Walmart adds capacity to their already notorious bandwidth coming into their stores (that they use for their data links) and sets up Wi-Max points of presence at each of their stores. Because they would be buying all this bandwidth in bulk (every Walmart in America) they could get the best bandwidth price than anyone else in the US and then hook people up via Wi-Max to these point’s of presence.
Also, because they would be buying so many, they could get the modems that their customers would need for DIRT cheap and basically give them away with a purchase of over $200. They could feasibly (profitably) sell ultra high speed internet access to the masses (and I mean the masses) for $20 a month, or less. One would essentially never have to buy a modem or change service again. Because when you move, the chances of you being within 20 or 30 miles of a Walmart are VERY likely.
As the technology improves and it becomes a mobile service as well, you could basically receive high speed internet access anywhere in America (within 30 miles of a Walmart) by using the same account you use at home but through your laptop or PDA.
Take this a step further… it won’t be long before the quality of voice over wireless IP will be at the same quality as regular phone service. Walmart could route all your calls through their network, via your $20 a month internet account, with no additional costs or minimal additional costs. So, you wouldn’t need a cell phone except under rare conditions that you’re out of range from a Walmart. For most of us, that’s never.
Go even further. The technology will get so good, they’ll be able to deliver video over the same wireless access.
Walmart, within 10 years or sooner, could be a one stop shop for your data, video and telecommunications service… all bundled under one account, using the same wireless feed. They could feasibly do this without even TOUCHING a local telephone company’s facilities. That means cheaper service for everyone. Imagine having your laptop with you on the bus to work and being able to watch HBO or any other station via your wireless cable TV link through your wireless Walmart WiMax connection.
It also means HUGE consolidation in the telecom industry. It’s coming, mark my words. WiMax is going to put lots of companies out of business or make them evolve. There will always be a few other choices, but only the strong ones will survive. My money is on Verizon in the cell space and Comcast in the video/broadband space.
If Walmart doesn’t do this, someone will. It will need to be someone with huge pockets, closely spaced existing real estate and the technological foresight to make it happen.
My money is on Walmart.
An executive from Walmart was once asked what markets they plan on moving into over time.
The executive said, “What markets are we currently NOT in?”
Meaning, they are going to get into every retail space that exists.
That’s a company with goals!
The lesson for entrepreneurs is… stay out of the telecom business unless you have a specific strategy that compliments this future I’ve laid out before you. When Walmart makes something a commodity, you might as well give up the ghost and move on to something they can’t make a commodity.
Like collectible artwork. 🙂