Over at the Institute for the Future, they're wondering if WalMart might end up getting into the broadband business by hooking up WiMax base stations (once such equipment is actually available) on all their stores, covering much of the US in broadband. It's an interesting theory, and gets the attention of those who think that telecoms are a dying breed. Of course, it's really not that easy. Over at TheFeature, I've written up a longer piece looking at some of the challenges a company like WalMart might face in offering broadband services. However, it's certainly not impossible to count them out. After all, who thought Starbucks would be in the internet access business in the first place? If you take that to a larger scale, perhaps Walmart could get into the WiMax business as well. A more interesting question, however, may be how the world is going to look when there are plenty of "virtual" network operators, where one company offers up their brand for others to put on a network. Virgin has built up quite a set of businesses doing this, and in the mobile space, MVNOs are a hot topic. However, could companies do this for just about any kind of telecom/broadband offering... and more to the point, is there a real benefit in doing so? It's cool for a big brand name company to think they can suddenly get into a technology services business just by licensing out their brand name, but won't there be some risks (a la AT&T's annoyance with AT&T Wireless' trampling of the brand) and some questions about just why you want to buy your internet service from Coca-Cola?
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