[Editor’s note: This story has been updated and republished from a previous version.]
Telecommunications technology has always been an ultra-competitive business. But with the advent of airwave auctions, figuring out which 5G stocks to buy just got a lot more interesting. Sector players are leaving no stone unturned as they battle for prime network coverage. Municipalities and entire nations selling their airwave rights in return for lucrative contracts with telecom giants is nothing new. Because of the 5G revolution, however, an increased number of countries — including Britain and Spain — are engaging in airwave auctions for the first time. It’s a trend that will likely proliferate.
According to a Bloomberg report, Italy auctioned off $7.6 billion of high-speed airwaves. The massive sum was actually twice as much as the Italian government anticipated. That’s obviously good for the Mediterranean country, which has suffered significant economic viability concerns. The impact of 5G, however, remains questionable in both the short- and long-term.
First, we must consider the obvious. In the Italian sector’s case, $7.6 billion is a lot of money, especially for many deeply indebted telecom firms. Several 5G stocks are now levered to a huge, binary risk. If things go sour, these names could quickly fall out of the list of stocks to buy. Second, it’s not clear how ultra-fast airwaves will impact 5G stocks. The next-generation network has multiple uses beyond quick download speeds, such as gaming and driverless vehicles. If these stated functions experience their own hiccups, that could hurt the telecom industry’s big gamble.
Personally, I’m skeptical of pure driverless vehicles. That said, we won’t know how far we can go until we integrate the appropriate infrastructure. If you’re ready for the risk, here are seven 5G stocks to buy:
Verizon Communications (VZ)
Typically, we remember the company that innovated first. For Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ), this first-to-market advantage is a significant one, making VZ stock an interesting bull case. As our own James Brumley explains, VZ stock isn’t necessarily a perfect play for the upcoming network revolution. Brumley writes, “Though technically speaking Verizon’s entry into the race is neither the first 5G network nor the version of 5G connectivity that will become the industry standard, owners of Verizon stock need not be discouraged.”
That’s because VZ stock struck first, leaving its key competitors scrambling for a response. For a few target markets — Indianapolis, Houston, Los Angeles and Sacramento — Verizon members have the joys of wireless 5G broadband internet service delivered to their homes.
True, VZ stock isn’t quite yet a pure name among 5G stocks to buy because its 5G mobile service isn’t available. But then again, no one is ready, as even most smartphones aren’t equipped to handle 5G.
Once they are, however, Verizon is in prime position. It has aggressively worked with city governments to secure lucrative airwave rights. In a few years, Verizon stock will be a very serious player.
In recent times, AT&T (NYSE:T) has become one of the most aggressive stocks to buy. Management is not afraid to shell out big bucks to make critical acquisitions. That was on display when AT&T bought out Time Warner for over $85 billion. So it might seem strange that the company is currently playing second fiddle to Verizon.
Ordinarily, I would be worried. However, T stock is not your average investment. In this particular case, I don’t mind AT&T not chasing after the 5G hype train. Don’t get me wrong: I believe in the next-gen wireless revolution. But for AT&T, waiting to measure twice and cut once is worth the initial pain.
As Brumley earlier alluded, Verizon used non-standard equipment to secure pole position among 5G stocks. AT&T will roll out its high-speed network with equipment that will eventually be the industry’s gold standard. I think management is being prudent primarily because T stock is highly leveraged from the Time Warner buyout. They should wait to get it right the first time.
Even if Verizon or any other competitor steals the spotlight, the situation is only temporary. AT&T already enjoys enviable network assets, and it’s putting them to good use with their “5G Evolution”. Once the broader infrastructure is set for true 5G, look for T stock to take off.
For millennials and older generations, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) has earned most of its fame as a semiconductor firm. While the PC chipmaking business isn’t going to go away anytime soon, we’ve seen a dramatic shift to cloud computing. Eventually, INTC stock will only be known for its innovations in the cloud, and for related sectors like data centers.
This trend allows for natural synergies for the 5G revolution. Rather than just provide equipment to handle these advanced airwaves, Intel has a holistic approach. For instance, with 5G, the company can take their virtual-reality endeavors to the next level. We saw a glimpse of their impressive portfolio during the last Winter Olympics when they broadcast events in VR.
Intel is also looking to revolutionize transportation, and not just through driverless vehicles. With a 5G-connected municipality, the company can help maximize transportation efficiencies for both personal and commercial purposes. Finally, Intel is looking toward smart-health solutions. With 5G’s inherent low-latency (the time it takes to transmit data between devices), medicine can experience its own paradigm-shift.
Intel isn’t just thinking about current uses — it has a broader perspective. For this and many other reasons, INTC stock is one of the best 5G stocks to buy.
As great as this next-gen wireless innovation is, all 5G stocks currently face two lagging issues: structural and technical. The structural component revolves around what companies like Verizon and AT&T are fighting over, namely, airwave rights. You can’t have 5G if the physical foundation doesn’t support this upgraded network speed.
The other lag is technical. Practically speaking, your phone doesn’t have 5G capacity, so right now, it’s a moot point. Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) is looking to change that reality. In July, Qualcomm introduced state-of-the-art radio-frequency antenna modules that are extremely compact, yet can accommodate 5G airwaves.
By the end of this year, Qualcomm is working with various partners to establish 5G mobile hotspots. In 2019, the company will launch 5G-capable mobile platforms. That should provide a nice boost for QCOM stock.
The tech giant could use some stability in the markets. While no one questions Qualcomm’s technical wizardry, QCOM stock has been one of the wildest among 5G stocks. As the innovation becomes an accepted reality, we should see bullish sentiment regain firm control.
American Tower (AMT)
American Tower (NYSE:AMT) is what I would consider a hybrid name among 5G stocks to buy. As InvestorPlace contributor Will Healy mentioned, 4G-equipped mobile devices require massive cell towers to function properly. But 5G? These are high-frequency waves that support faster data transmissions, but don’t travel as far as prior-gen wireless waves.
Therefore, the name of the game is shorter cell posts and in greater amounts. That’s why telecoms integrate 5G equipment into already-existing infrastructures. You’d think that would put AMT stock at a disadvantage. But as Healy explains, 5G-specific cells must communicate with larger towers. Also, American Tower’s smaller structures would have new life.
Another advantage for AMT stock is its international networks. Not all countries, especially the developing ones, will upgrade to 5G simultaneously. It took more than half-a-decade to fully roll out 4G, so that business will not go away so quickly.
Skyworks Solutions (SWKS)
Although the high-speed wireless rollout is a net boost for 5G stocks, not all players are feeling the love. Case in point is Skyworks Solutions (NASDAQ:SWKS). Over the past year, SWKS stock is down approximately 36.3%. The more concerning part is that SWKS has lost significant momentum …
But if you’re bullish on 5G stocks, you should give Skyworks more than just a passing glance.
Widely known for providing radio-frequency chips for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Skyworks is stepping up to the 5G revolution. In late July, the company unveiled its state-of-the-art antenna aperture tuners. These are incredibly compact, and provide enhanced bandwidth coverage to accommodate 5G airwaves.
Beyond that, SWKS stock has other viable businesses that can help mitigate the volatility in the telecom sector. Skyworks levers significant expertise in industrial solutions, automotive design and smart home platforms. In other words, the company is involved in too many lucrative markets to stay deflated indefinitely.
In recent months, anytime I cover a gallery of stocks to buy, I always like to offer at least one speculative name. Granted, you ideally want to load up your portfolio with winning names. But market gambles are like cannabis: no one really talks about it openly, but you know almost everyone does it.
So my knife-catching opportunity for 5G stocks is Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD). Unless your sporting activities only revolve around watching NASCAR and wrenching on your truck, you’ve heard of Vodafone. For NASCAR fans, Vodafone is a British multinational telecom giant. In fact, buying VOD stock makes you an owner of the second-biggest mobile network operator in the world.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t meant much to Wall Street. In the past year, VOD stock has hemorrhaged an agonizing 38% in the markets. Its aggressive bidding for European airwave auctions hasn’t really charmed investors. After all, the Vodafone has nearly $40.6 billion in debt, and only $14.8 billion in cash and its equivalent.
But the old adage is that you have to spend money to make money. The 5G transition, once fully implemented, could dramatically alter the telecom landscape. At that point, those early (and painful) investments could pay off significantly.
Undoubtedly, VOD stock is a huge risk, but one that isn’t completely crazy.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.