Slowly but surely Wi-Fi growth is starting to dominate the wireless equation around the United States and the world. While the growth in 2013 slowed somewhat compared to an incredible 2012, 15.5% is still a huge leap in overall enterprise and service provider sales gains. The one striking statistic is that at some point or another, almost every person with a wireless device will use a Wi-Fi hotspot or service.
While the overall growth rate may moderate, the top companies in the field continue to press ahead to not only speed up the delivery and improve the quality. They also are searching for new and more efficient ways to deliver the product unobstructed to the user. The Technology research team at Oppenheimer recently examined the top stocks that are the dominant players in the arena. These top companies are the ones investors need to buy if they want a Wi-Fi representation in their portfolios.
Aruba Networks Inc. (NASDAQ: ARUN) delivered a stronger-than-expected quarter with its ramped-up sales effort driving strong sales across most verticals. Europe and Aruba Instant momentum were both huge bright spots for the company. The Oppenheimer analysts believe international expansion and mid-market are still good growth vehicles that could sustain more near-term share gains. The Thomson/First Call price target for the stock is $23.63. Aruba closed Wednesday at $21.18.
Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) remains the networking leader and may be forced to really start to show real growth to Wall Street after three straight subpar earnings reports. Oppenheimer believes the challenges could extend through 2014. While the company has looked to protect its core business from new competition, stiff competition has started to squeeze the tech giant’s core earnings power. Last year the company bought out the remainder of its majority-owned data center technology start-up called Insieme in a deal that could cost up to $863 million. As it is a leader in the new “Internet of Things,” investors are betting that the company will enhance the network interface ability of tech companies. Investors are paid a solid 3.5% dividend. The consensus target is $23.55. Cisco ended Wednesday at $21.87.
Hewlett-Packard Co.‘s (NYSE: HPQ) main exposure to the enterprise wireless local area network (WLAN) market comes from its acquisitions of Colubris and 3COM, and it includes indoor and outdoor solutions, controller and controller-less solutions and cloud-based solutions. HP’s portfolio includes the MSM access points and controllers, WX access points and controllers and the HP Mobility Security system for WLAN security. HP Networking has historically focused on education, hospitality and government markets and has had limited success. Investors are paid a 1.9% dividend. The consensus price target is $31.87. HP closed Wednesday at $29.94.
Juniper Networks Inc.‘s (NYSE: JNPR) exposure to the enterprise WLAN market comes from its acquisition of Wi-Fi networking specialist Trapeze Networks in late 2010. While its WLAN exposure is relatively small, its presence in the Ethernet switch market gives it a good channel setup to reach health care, education, financial, public/government and service providers. The consensus price target is $29.07. Juniper closed Wednesday at $26.37.
Motorola Solutions Inc. (NYSE: MSI) offers a full portfolio of access points, controller and controller-less solutions (NX and RFS controllers and switches), a security platform through its Air Defense software and an integrated services platform. The company has historically done very well in government and retail markets (strengthened by its Symbol acquisition), as well as logistics and warehousing facilities. The Oppenheimer team expects the retail market to drive Motorola’s business in the near future and believes the company can be competitive in the carrier segment as well. Investors are paid a 1.9% dividend. The consensus price target is $65.27. The stock closed Wednesday at $66.33 per share.
Ruckus Wireless Inc. (NYSE: RKUS) offers a full portfolio of access points (ZoneDirector), controllers and gateways (ZoneDirector and SmartCell) and an associated management and services platform. The company historically has done very well in SMB enterprise, where the overlap with market leaders Cisco and Aruba is small. Ruckus has also done well focusing on hospitality, education and logistics/warehousing, where the scalability of its platform is an attractive feature. In addition to its good position in the SMB enterprise market, the Oppenheimer analysts see Ruckus as a leader in the emerging carrier Wi-Fi market for both traditional broadband access and network offloading applications. The consensus price target is $17.44. Ruckus closed Wednesday at $15.29.
As the Wi-Fi market continues its run to be everywhere and ubiquitous, the top companies that are providing seamless and scalable delivery for their customers will continue to dominate. All one interested in investing in the space has to consider is one’s own use of Wi-Fi networks. Then multiply that by many times to account for business and government use worldwide. The market should continue to grow unabated for years.