Just as IoT (Internet of Things) became a buzzword for many years before it started taking off, the same is happening with 5G. 5G is the next-generation standard for wireless communications. It promises to give wireless devices, especially the mainstream smartphone, lower latency and faster speeds. And because such uses as video streaming and IoT in automotive and appliances benefit from a faster backend network, investors will not want to miss out on the 5G revolution.
The 5G upgrade is being driven by big U.S. telecom firms that are getting ready to test 5G sometime in the middle of this year. So as the upgrade cycle unfolds, investors will want to buy network suppliers offering 5G equipment.
Before hopping on the 5G investment play, be wary on one outlier: Huawei. The U.S., along with other G7 countries, are blocking the company from selling telecom equipment. If this happens, other networking suppliers will win more business deals. But if Huawei somehow appeases the U.S. and is allowed to sell its 5G equipment, then that may raise the competitive pressures for all players in this space.
With all of that in mind, here are five of the best 5G stocks to invest in now.
Cisco Systems (CSCO)
Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) may offset its slowing Security business if it wins 5G networking supply deals. It sells connections and network that protect connections worldwide. Cisco 5G Power x is a cloud-to-client approach to 5G. The solution delivers an open, hyper-programmable architecture (according to the information posted on its website). Any combination of cellular, Wi-Fi and IP access is supported.
Cisco stock trades at just below 20 times forward earnings and earnings are expected to grow by nearly 10% for the next five years. This pace could be even higher as the rate of 5G orders increases this year.
Nokia Corporation (NYSE: NOK) is trading in an uptrend that began in August 2018, and for good reason. Huawei’s troubles could give Nokia’s Alcatel-Lucent unit a positive lift as it wins 5G networking upgrades this year. In the fourth-quarter report released on Jan. 31, Nokia reported revenue growing 3.3% year-over-year. Looking forward, CEO Rajeev Suri said that he expects Nokia’s performance to strengthen in 2019 over 2018. The meaningful shift to 5G will drive this business upswing. Longer-term growth will come from optical, macro radio, fixed wireless access and even software. But 5G will help these areas, through the second wave of upgrades of private wireless technology. This includes LTE and 5G-ready networks.
Nokia is in a leadership position as 5G commercialization unfolds. The company is confident that it will dominate in the Americas, as well as in Europe, Middle East & Africa and Asia-Pacific.
Nokia stock trades at 14 times forward earnings. At the Mobile World Congress 2019 event on Feb. 25 – 28, Nokia may give more details on its success in the 5G rollout.
Ciena Corporation (CIEN)
Trading near yearly highs, Ciena Corporation (NYSE:CIEN) will probably continue posting impressive quarterly results. In the Q4 report posted on Dec. 13, 2018, Ciena’s earnings grew from 46 cents to 53 cents a share. With its next report on Mar. 5, before market open, chances are good that the company will report another earnings beat. The market is valuing the stock at just 17.4 times forward earnings.
Looking beyond the current quarter, the strong demand for 5G will drive fiber densification into the access network. This creates a great opportunity for Ciena to help as new platforms get created. The new set of capabilities include integrating coherent optics into these platforms. This is Ciena’s core market strength. 5G is not a direct driver for Ciena, but the bandwidth and user experience needs in the back-end are. So, expect revenue growth in this segment to do very well for 2019.
AT&T (NYSE:T) introduced the first standards based on the mobile 5G network in 12 cities very recently. It is ahead of schedule in deploying the network. On the backend, fiber deployment, which is foundational to its 5G network, now reaches 11 million customer locations. This is on top of 8 million business locations.
AT&T’s leadership in 5G gives the telecom giant an edge over other carriers as it offers network improvements that include better speeds for its customers. As the rollout for 5G reaches critical mass, investors in AT&T stock will look forward to sustained revenue growth, strong cash flow and a dividend yield that is close to 7%.
Investors might worry over the cost of building a nationwide 5G network. Competitors are offering the same, but AT&T benefits from a wider bandwidth and higher revenue per user. This happens as customers upgrade to a better, faster service offering.
Juniper Networks (JNPR)
Juniper Networks (NYSE:JNPR) shares dipped slightly after the company reported light fourth-quarter results. Still, the business model pressure will be offset with the MX 5G product refresh. Management believes MX 5G will add meaningfully to revenue in the second half of this year. The routing business will strengthen, thanks to the 5G investment cycle. Should Juniper grow its market share, the firm may cross-sell its secure infrastructure solution — firewall technology — further adding to its revenues in the years ahead.
For 2019, the carrier 5G deployment will help lift revenue. Juniper also believes the 400G upgrade cycle and the enterprise multi-cloud initiative will be a positive tailwind for the company over the next few years.
As of this writing, Chris Lau held shares of Nokia Corporation.