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Zacks Industry Outlook Highlights T-Mobile US, Verizon Communications and United States Cellular

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – April 11, 2024 – Today, Zacks Equity Research discusses T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS - Free Report) , Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ - Free Report) and United States Cellular Corp. (USM - Free Report) .

Industry: Wireless


The Zacks Wireless National industry appears to be mired in high capital expenditures for infrastructure upgrades, margin woes, supply-chain disruptions amid the prolonged Russia-Ukraine war and Israel-Hamas conflict, soft China market conditions and high customer inventory levels. However, the industry is likely to benefit in the long run from an accelerated 5G rollout and increased fiber densification.

Against this backdrop, T-Mobile US Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and United States Cellular Corp. are likely to gain from higher demand for scalable infrastructure for seamless network connectivity with a wide proliferation of IoT, wireless traction and solid broadband momentum.

Industry Description

The Zacks Wireless National industry primarily comprises firms that provide a comprehensive range of communication services and business solutions. These include wireless, wireline, local exchange, long-distance calls, data/broadband and Internet, video, managed networking, messaging, wholesale and cloud-based services to retail consumers.

The firms within the industry also offer IP-based voice and data services, targeted advertising, television, streaming content, cable networks and publishing operations, multiprotocol label switching networking, fiber optic long-haul networks and hosting and communications systems to businesses and government agencies. In addition, the firms provide edge computing services that allow businesses to route application-specific traffic where required and are most effective — whether in the cloud, the network, or on their premises.

What's Shaping the Future of the Wireless National Industry?

Depleting Profits: Increased infrastructure spending for network upgrades has largely compromised short-term margins. Aggressive promotional expenses, lucrative discounts and the adoption of several low-priced service plans to attract and retain customers amid a challenging macroeconomic environment are eroding profits.

A steady decline in linear TV subscribers and legacy services due to a challenging macroeconomic environment and high inflation adds to the margin woes. Consequently, the industry firms are increasingly seeking diversification from legacy telecom services to more business, enterprise and wholesale opportunities. The companies are making significant investments to upgrade their network and product portfolio, including considerable advances in software-defined, wide-area network capabilities and a new Cloud Core architecture.

Accelerated 5G Rollout & Fiber Densification: Most industry participants are deploying the latest 4G LTE Advanced technologies to deliver higher peak data speeds and capacity, driven by customer-focused planning, disciplined engineering and investments for infrastructure upgrades. The companies are also expanding their fiber optic networks to support 4G LTE and 5G wireless standards.

Further, leading firms within the industry have been deploying the C-Band spectrum to gain additional coverage. These mid-band airwaves offer significant bandwidth with better propagation characteristics for optimum coverage in rural and urban areas compared with mmWave. As the 5G ecosystem evolves, customers are expected to experience significant enhancements in coverage and speed.

Demand-Supply Imbalance: High raw material prices due to the Israel-Hamas conflict, the prolonged Russia-Ukraine war and the consequent economic sanctions against the Putin regime have affected the operation schedule of various firms. The demand-supply imbalance has crippled operations and largely affected profitability due to inflated equipment prices.

Wireless operators have been facing challenges due to the disruptive rise of over-the-top service providers in this dynamic industry. Price-sensitive competition for customer retention in the core business is expected to intensify in the coming days. Aggressive competition is likely to limit the ability to attract and retain customers, and affect operating and financial results.

Shift to Software-Centric Model: The industry participants are realigning their wireless network toward a software-centric model to cater to increasing business demands and customer needs through remote facilities. The industry players are focused on bringing improved operational efficiencies through network simplification and rationalization, thereby boosting end-to-end provisioning time and driving standardization.

Moreover, the firms are offering a variety of pathways for delivering services through a combination of network-based video transcoding, packaging, storage and compression technologies to offer new IP video formats, live TV, streaming services and home gateways to connected devices inside and outside the home.

Zacks Industry Rank Indicates Bleak Prospects

The Zacks Wireless National industry is housed within the broader Zacks Computer and Technology sector. It carries a Zacks Industry Rank #187, which places it in the bottom 26% of more than 250 Zacks industries.

The group's Zacks Industry Rank, which is basically the average of the Zacks Rank of all the member stocks, indicates dull prospects. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperform the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1.

Before we present a few wireless national stocks that are well-positioned to outperform the market based on a strong earnings outlook, let's take a look at the industry's recent stock market performance and valuation picture.

Industry Lags S&P 500, Sector

The Zacks Wireless National industry has lagged the S&P 500 composite and the broader Zacks Computer and Technology sector over the past year.

The industry has jumped just 0.7% over this period compared with the S&P 500 and the sector's growth of 27.2% and 43.9%, respectively.

Industry's Current Valuation

On the basis of the trailing 12-month enterprise value-to-EBITDA (EV/EBITDA), which is the most appropriate multiple for valuing telecom stocks, the industry is currently trading at 7.76X compared with the S&P 500's 15.05X. It is also below the sector's trailing 12-month EV/EBITDA of 14.39X.

Over the past five years, the industry has traded as high as 8.93X, as low as 5.46X and at the median of 7.08X.

3 Wireless National Stocks to Keep a Close Eye On

T-Mobile: Headquartered in Bellevue, WA, T-Mobile is a national wireless service provider. The company offers services under the T-Mobile, Metro by T-Mobile and Sprint brands. T-Mobile is benefiting from industry-leading postpaid customer growth with a record-low churn rate.

The company's dedicated 5G spectrum assets with superior propagation and a strong emphasis on customer experience are supporting the top line. Its Ultra Capacity 5G network is powered by the mid-band 2.5 GHz spectrum, which delivers superfast speed, covers 330 million people and ensures a superior 5G experience.

The stock has gained 7.4% over the past year. It has a long-term earnings growth expectation of 27.5% and delivered an earnings surprise of 1.3%, on average, in the trailing four quarters. T-Mobile carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Verizon: Based in New York, Verizon offers communication services in the form of local phone service, long-distance, wireless and data services. With one of the most efficient wireless networks in the United States, it deploys the latest technologies to deliver faster peak data speeds and capacity for customers, driven by customer-focused planning, disciplined engineering and constant strategic investment.

The company remains focused on making necessary capital expenditures due to the expansion of 5G mmWave in new and existing markets, the densification of the 4G LTE wireless network to cater to huge traffic demands across multiple verticals and the continued deployment of the fiber infrastructure. This Zacks Rank #3 stock has a long-term earnings growth expectation of 2.7% and delivered an earnings surprise of 2.4%, on average, in the trailing four quarters.

US Cellular: Headquartered in Chicago, IL, U.S. Cellular is the fourth largest full-service wireless carrier in the United 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 the efficiency of government operations.

U.S. Cellular is expanding its footprint while adopting unlimited plans to enhance average revenue per user. The company has a mid-band spectrum in almost all of its operating markets. It has a VGM Score of A. This Zacks Rank #3 stock has gained 61.7% over the past year. It delivered an earnings surprise of 80.2%, on average, in the trailing four quarters.

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit  for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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