People are traveling more, and the industry has grown alongside the trend. Perhaps unknowingly, this development is quite significant for the continued competition between major data providers like Verizon Communications (VZ), AT&T Inc. (T), and Sprint Nextel Corporation (S). When looking for a wireless carrier, customers will have to consider which company can give them a data plan that will meet their need, and these needs are increasingly involving travel. Therefore, customers require a variety of areas with 4G service, so they can travel and still use the 4G capabilities to which they've grown accustomed. Verizon crushes its competition in this respect, so with a stronger demand for travel should come a stronger demand for Verizon. While the stock price may seem high right now, I think that Verizon could be a very good investment, as it should not be done rising quite as yet.
Verizon is currently trading at around $46 and has been rising for some time now, but when looking at a three-year chart for the stock, one can see that it has not experienced any significant drops in price since July 2010. It has a healthy revenue growth of 4.64%, and I expect this number to go up as it takes a bigger share of the market.
Verizon is currently a strong 4G provider in the United States, giving it a major advantage in the market for wireless carriers. It has a goal of providing LTE service to 400 markets by the end of 2012, and it now covers 337 markets, after adding 33 new markets on July 19. It also expanded service in 32 current markets, showing that it is reaching new markets and improving its existing services at the same time. New estimates claim that Verizon's 4G LTE network covers up to 75% of the US population. This becomes even more impressive when looking at the competition's struggle to keep up with Verizon.
AT&T recently reached a total of 47 markets, after adding 7 new markets. Both the total amount and the speed of its growth, therefore, are quite unimpressive when compared to Verizon. It is also expanding its coverage in several of the markets where AT&T already has 4G services available, but this, too, remains quite unimpressive by comparison with Verizon. AT&T is currently trading around $36, with a revenue growth of only 1.84% though, and I have a feeling that unlike Verizon, AT&T will struggle to produce steady revenue if it continues to be dominated on the 4G front.
Sprint is an even weaker competitor when it comes to the 4G LTE market. It recently launched its first 4G LTE services in 15 cities, mostly including cities in Georgia and Texas. This may be smart for the company, as it does not yet have enough of a nationwide presence to attract heavy travelers. Therefore, it has avoided areas that are more focused on tourism, and it may enjoy some success for this. Also, it has targeted southern cities, and a recent report shows that Southerners have been relatively displeased with their wireless service, although data speed was only part of the issue. Despite this, Verizon continues to crush the company with its nationwide presence. Sprint has revenue growth of 5.06%, but with a profit margin of -9.88% and an earnings yield of -30.10% - one cannot sit too comfortably with this company. I think it is great that it is beginning to get a place in the 4G LTE market though, and with its low price-currently trading around $4, I do give a slight recommendation of this stock.
The real winner, however, will be Verizon. Not only does it have 4G services in the most markets and work for the quickest expansion of services, but it will enjoy even more success with the rising demand in the travel industry. It has made moves to introduce and market its Jetpack product, a mobile 4G producing hotspot that could really turn into a serious traveler's best friend. As this travel article explains, 4G LTE really answered the problems travelers had with 3G technologies - most notably the number of bands (frequencies) to use and the ability to handle VoIP calls/technologies (like Skype, for instance).
Financial trouble in Europe and possible slowdowns in China and India suggest that the travel industry would be struggling, but despite this, there continues to be significant demand for travel. U.S. hotels and airlines have been posting steady profit, and although there has been some slowing down in growth, it is still impressive that the industry continues strong. The travel industry has also been creating jobs 26% faster than the other areas of the U.S economy since March 2011. In addition, the U.S. timeshare industry has been booming, as it contributed roughly $70 billion to the U.S. economy. This is another form of travel that will lead people to require 4G service in more markets, even if it is already available in their home city.
Sprint and AT&T do not cover enough markets to meet the needs of these customers, and companies like United States Cellular (USM) and MetroPCS Communications (PCS) will also struggle due to their lower levels of 4G coverage. For example, if you compare the 4G LTE coverage map from U.S Cellular to the 4G LTE coverage map from Verizon, the difference becomes quickly apparent. Verizon offers LTE services in areas across the nation, while U.S. Cellular only offers them in a few regions.
The travel industry should bring great things to Verizon, as it continues to expand its 4G LTE network faster than any of its competitors. Travelers should lean towards this company if they wish to get the most out of their data plans, and this will take business away from competitors. For those on the move, Verizon simply offers solutions that other carriers can't compete with - it's going to see a steady rise of on-the-move businessmen and globetrotters, as they wish to stay connected. Thus, Verizon will continue to dominate and reap the benefits of a growing travel industry.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.