Over the past week, U.S. telecom stocks have witnessed a steady downtrend as the industry appeared to be on a collision course with the aviation sector due to the potential interference of the C-Band spectrum with aviation safety standards. With the C-Band spectrum for 5G expansion slated to take off on Jan 5, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has released a ‘Safety Alert for Operators’. The alert includes recommended action in the form of ‘Notice To Air Missions’, primarily based on restrictions issued earlier by the FAA. This, in turn, is likely to significantly affect air cargo and commercial air travel at most of the biggest airports and highest traffic destinations across the country, with airlines warning that about 4% of daily flights are likely to be delayed, canceled, or diverted.
The FAA has raised concerns that the commercial launch of the C-band wireless service in the 3.7-3.98 GHz frequency band could cause the airwaves to interfere with radar or radio altimeter signals that measure the distance between the aircraft and ground. Data from these devices are fed to the cockpit safety system that helps pilots gauge the air safety metrics and prevent mid-air collision, avoid crashes and ensure a safe landing. Consequently, the FAA has issued certain flight restrictions that would prevent pilots from operating the automatic landing option and other cockpit systems during inclement weather conditions. This has put the transportation industry and the broader economy in jeopardy. Although the FCC has argued that both systems could safely co-exist, the impasse is unlikely to resolve anytime soon, fueling uncertainty within the industry.
Notable company-specific news that grabbed the spotlight over the past week includes Verizon Communications Inc.’s VZ collaboration with Vuzix and AT&T Inc.’s T approval from European Commission for WarnerMedia sale. Also, Telefónica, S.A. TEF has decided to retrench 2,700 workers in Spain and Vodafone Group Public Limited Company VOD has launched a 5G mobile broadband device.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Court of Appeals has supported an FCC move to open up 1,200 MHz of spectrum in the 6GHz band for unlicensed use. The court approval is likely to witness a proliferation of Wi-Fi standards as demand to connect more devices to the network rises exponentially. This, in turn, will facilitate enterprises and service providers to support emerging applications and ensure all connected devices perform at optimum levels.
Recap of the Week’s Most Important Stories
1. Verizon recently inked a definitive agreement for an undisclosed amount with Vuzix to deliver an immersive augmented reality (AR) experience in the sports and gaming arena. The first-of-its-kind offering is likely to sow the seeds for future endeavors related to the commercialization of AR technology in various domains.
Per the deal, Vuzix will aim to leverage Verizon’s 5G and edge computing technologies for AR experience in its Shield smart glass. The collaboration is the culmination of a proof-of-concept program that was completed earlier this year, which demonstrated the power of Verizon’s 5G and edge computing platform on Vuzix smart glasses in terms of improved response time, longer battery life and increased computing capacity.
2. AT&T’s game-changing deal with Discovery, Inc. for the divesture of its WarnerMedia business recently got a big boost, with the European Commission granting unconditional antitrust clearance for the transaction. AT&T expects the merger to be completed by mid-2022. The transaction aims to spin off the carrier’s media assets and merge them with the complementary assets of Discovery.
The antitrust clearance enables both the companies to move a step closer to the formation of Warner Bros. Discovery, a premium entertainment firm with enviable media content under a single platform. Post completion of the deal, AT&T will receive $43 billion in a combination of cash and debt securities and will own 71% of the new entity, while Discovery will own the remainder. The transaction is expected to enable the carrier to trim its huge debt burden and focus on core businesses. The separation of the media assets is likely to offer the company an opportunity to better align its communications business with a focused total return capital allocation strategy.
3. Telefónica has inked an agreement with local labor unions in Spain to retrench about 15% of its domestic workforce. The strategic decision is aimed at reducing operating costs, lowering debt and improving cash flow for extensive 5G deployment and upgrade of existing network infrastructure.
The company is reportedly the third-largest telecom firm in Europe, with a global employee count of approximately 114,000. Telefonica will cut about 2,700 jobs from an estimated workforce of 18,500 in Spain. The voluntary severance package is likely to yield annual savings of more than 230 million euros from 2023. In addition, it is likely to generate positive cash flow in 2022 as the employees exit during the first quarter.
4. Vodafone recently announced the launch of its first-ever 5G mobile broadband device — 5G MiFi. This innovative offering has been specifically designed to cater to the connectivity requirements of customers ‘on the go’.
The touchscreen device from Vodafone is ideal for supporting the connectivity of small businesses and it can also be used in the home premises. It is equipped with a simple web interface. It boasts an exceptional 8.5-hour battery life that enables customers to seamlessly share Wi-Fi with up to 32 users or devices, backed by hassle-free configuration.
The following table shows the price movement of some of the major telecom stocks over the past week and six months.
Image Source: Zacks Investment Research
In the past five trading days, Juniper gained the most, with its stock rising 5.4%. Bandwidth has declined the most, with its stock falling 3.1%.
Over the past six months, Arista has been the best performer, with its stock appreciating 37.8%, while Bandwidth has declined the most, with its stock falling 94.9%.
Over the past six months, the Zacks Telecommunications Services industry has declined 9.1%, while the S&P 500 has rallied 10.8%.
Image Source: Zacks Investment Research
What’s Next in the Telecom Space?
In addition to 5G deployments and product launches, all eyes will remain glued to how the new year unfurls for the industry and how the administration aims to address the potential deadlock between the aviation and telecom industry.
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