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Those goshdarn telecom giants need to put their pedals to the metal.
That's the takeaway from Juniper Networks' (Nasdaq: JNPR ) guidance update last night. Citing low demand from service providers, Juniper slashed its fourth-quarter revenue outlook by 6.3% alongside a 21.6% lower earnings performance.
American customers carry the lion's share of the blame. Over the last two years, Juniper's largest clients have been Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ ) and AT&T (NYSE: T ) , so it's pretty clear exactly where Juniper shareholders should start pointing fingers. In its latest earnings call, Juniper warned of slow infrastructure orders due to "economic challenges," but this investment pace compares unfavorably to that of Steve, my pet snail.
In Ma Bell's case, slow network buildouts could be forgiven in the last couple of quarters. As the T-Mobile acquisition fell apart, the company would have looked like it was giving up hope. Never let 'em know you're hurting, champ.
Verizon is a different story. Big Red appears to have taken AT&T's misadventures as an excuse to slow down its own network improvements. It makes me wonder why the telecoms are fighting to the death for every kilohertz of wireless spectrum. Verizon CFO Francis Shammo recently told the crowds at an industry conference that his company had enough spectrum to last into 2015 -- before paying $3.6 billion for another chunk of bandwidth from Comcast and Time Warner Cable.
So Verizon has enough airspace to keep it busy for at least a couple of years, yet doesn't seem keen on actually using these licenses to improve its services. I get that the companies need to keep some headroom for future expansion plans, but speeding up next-generation network builds like the current LTE implementations would make more efficient use of existing spectrum licenses.
We're in the middle of a terrific mobile data boom fueled by smartphones, tablets, and mobile video. The operators could build better networks given their existing resources, but they prefer to bicker and fight over a spectrum crunch that's still years away. And when we finally get there, you should expect networking technologies to have evolved even further, squeezing more megabytes into the same radio bandwidth.
I guess it's the cheap and easy way out, though. That's a shame for Juniper and its fellow equipment builders, but telecom investors cheer for lower capital expenses in exchange for heavy dividend flows. If timid technology tactics leave you queasy, you should check out this report on 11 rock-solid dividend payers.