As the 5G wars heat up, one company that investors should keep a close eye on is Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ). Although the stock hasn't had the greatest year in 2019, climbing just 6% since January, that could make it a relatively cheap buy. But first, let's take a closer look at how the company has performed of late and what investors can expect from Verizon in the future.

Earnings beat expectations but fail to impress investors

In the company's most recent quarterly earnings, Verizon showed good user growth with 615,000 new postpaid customers added during the quarter, which was well above the 527,000 additions that analysts were expecting. As a result, Verizon's revenue and earnings both beat expectations. However, despite the beat, the company's top line came in at $32.9 billion, which was less than a 1% improvement in sales from a year ago. The consumer segment, which at $22.7 billion was the bulk of Verizon's sales, grew at a rate of just 1.4%, while business-related revenue was flat.

The bottom line saw more of an improvement, as net income of $5.2 billion rose more than 5% from last year's tally of $4.9 billion. The quarter was a good one overall, but it wasn't enough to get investors excited about the stock. In the past month, the stock has declined by around 2%.

Cell phone showing an unknown call coming in.

Image Source: Getty Images.

Lots more growth expected and needed

In order for its stock to become more of an attractive buy, Verizon knows it's going to need to generate more growth. With the company recently offering unlimited data plans, that helped it add subscribers this past quarter and it could be the start of a much larger trend.

But the bigger opportunity for the company may come in 5G. Currently, Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband service is available in 18 cities, and that number is expected to reach 30 before the current year is over. The company is in a race against key competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint to try and expand its coverage area as quickly as possible to provide its customers with the latest and greatest technology. With 5G being the next big thing in wireless service, it'll be crucial for Verizon to keep up, especially with AT&T, which already has its 5G+ service available in more than 20 cities. Some mobile devices already support 5G, and for carriers to be able to attract customers, availability and reliability of a 5G network could be a key differentiator, and Verizon is going to be a major player in that.

One way that Verizon is trying to give itself an advantage over its competitors is by partnering with Snap (NYSE:SNAP). The two companies will be working together on augmented reality (AR) features where Snap will come preloaded on certain 5G phones and the app will help highlight Verizon's network as the companies will be involved in co-marketing efforts. Earlier this year, Snap unveiled its Spectacles 3, which will allow users to take advantage of AR features when wearing the sunglasses.

Don't forget about that dividend

Verizon's growth may be a question mark and the stock may not have performed that well this year, but the saving grace could be its dividend. Once you add on Verizon's 4.1% yield, the stock's year-to-date total returns reach double digits. The company has also done a great job of increasing those payouts over the years. Quarterly payments of $0.6150 have risen 12% since 2014 when they were $0.55. That averages out to an annual increase of 2.2%. And while that may not be high, it's a sustainable amount that makes it likely that Verizon will be able to continue raising its dividend payments for the foreseeable future.

For the right investor, Verizon could be a good long-term buy

Verizon isn't a stock that I'd buy today simply because it has underperformed in what's been a very bullish year for the markets, and the results could be even less impressive if the economy begins to struggle. However, for investors who value dividends, stability, and less volatility, Verizon could be a good long-term buy. The company is one of the leaders in its industry and it's hard to see that changing anytime soon. And if its rollout of 5G proves to be successful, the stock could be poised for some great returns next year.

Currently priced at a modest price-to-earnings ratio of 15, Verizon is also at a fair valuation, which minimizes the possibility that the stock gets hit hard if a correction happens in the markets.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.