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Why U.S. Cellular (USM) is an Appealing Bet for Investors

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Driven by a resilient business model, shares of United States Cellular Corporation (USM - Free Report) have gained 20.9% compared with the industry’s growth of 6.6% in the past year. Markedly, the pandemic necessitated the presence of crucial connectivity services to ensure that customers are always connected.

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Against this backdrop, U.S. Cellular is consistently witnessing a steep surge in its voice, SMS and data traffic to withstand shifts in broadband requirements on the back of a robust and reliable network.

Impressively, it capitalizes on AI systems that automatically optimize and self-heal the network with changing conditions. In fact, the company also undertook various proactive steps to extend its support for customers during the COVID-19 crisis, which includes eliminating the overage charges on smartphone legacy plans and removing data limits on all high-speed Internet plans.

It delivered a trailing four-quarter earnings surprise of 123.9%, on average. Supported by such healthy business dynamics and a diligent operational execution, this presently Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) wireless carrier appears to be an enticing bet for investors at the moment. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Key Drivers

Headquartered in Chicago, IL, U.S. Cellular is the fourth largest full-service wireless carrier in the United States. With five million connections in 21 states, the company provides a range of wireless products and services, and a high-quality network to increase the competitiveness of local businesses and improve efficiency of government operations. It is a subsidiary of Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. (TDS - Free Report) , a diversified telecom service provider offering wireless and wireline services.

It is well positioned to support the investment required for 5G deployments and took steps to bolster subscriber additions and improve churn management. With network-modernization programs on track, the company is deploying 5G on 600 MHz spectrum and plans to expand it with mid- and high-band spectrum. It is also conducting customer pilots using millimeter wave spectrum for a high-speed Internet product to test the market demand while narrowing the digital divide so that people can have access to high-quality and affordable broadband services.

The company made a noticeable progress on strategic objectives like growing customer base by increasing handset connections and customer loyalty to boost revenues and profitability. With deeper smartphone penetration, it anticipates additional demand for data and migration through equipment installment plans coupled with a competitive pricing environment. It is working toward long-term growth and sustainability. We believe that the stock has more upside potential left.

Latest Developments

Of late, the company has been in news for its collaboration with Ericsson (ERIC - Free Report) , Qualcomm Incorporated (QCOM - Free Report) and Inseego wherein these entities achieved a significant 5G extended-range milestone over millimeter Wave (mmWave) on a commercial network. The test leveraged Ericsson’s extended-range software and hardware along with an Inseego Wavemaker PRO 5G outdoor CPE FW2010e. These were powered by Qualcomm SnapdragonX55 5G Modem-RF System and Qualcomm QTM527 mmWave antenna module. The partnership addresses the last mile connectivity challenge and demonstrates impressive 5G speeds that enhance consumer broadband experiences as data demand grows.

The company also joined forces with Nokia to successfully conduct a field trial of 5G mmWave solution in a commercial network. The test results are likely to sow the seeds of an extended 5G coverage across rural areas with improved connectivity and low latency features. Leveraging Nokia’s AirScale Baseband and mmWave Radios in the 28 GHz band, the trial was conducted on US Cellular’s commercial network in Grand Island, NE, utilizing Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System and Qualcomm QTM527 mmWave antenna module. As 5G mmWave continues to gain a solid traction from mobile networks, it is expanding into new use cases for indoor/outdoor and smart campus deployments as well. This, in turn, is likely to bridge the digital divide and make 5G more prevalent across the country.

U.S. Cellular is housed within the Wireless National industry that carries a Zacks Industry Rank #52, which places it in the top 20% of more than 250 Zacks industries. The stock’s Zacks Industry Rank, which is basically the average of the Zacks Rank of all the member stocks, indicates encouraging prospects. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperforms the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1. Evidently, the stock appears to be a promising investment option at the moment.

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