Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) demonstrated why it's a reliable investment even during unpredictable times when it reported first-quarter earnings in April. The coronavirus pandemic has shown that no company is immune from its impact, yet Verizon, as one of the largest companies in the U.S. telecommunications industry, proved more resilient than many.

This news can bring peace of mind to investors, but beyond that, can Verizon provide significant returns? Let's examine this company a bit more and see if it has what it takes to produce millionaire-maker returns.

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A stable company, even in an economic downturn

Verizon's first-quarter earnings report showed that it's prepared to weather a crisis the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite seeing a year-over-year revenue drop of 1.6%, from $32.1 billion to $31.6 billion, it ended the quarter with $7 billion in cash and equivalents, up from $2.3 billion in Q1 of last year and $2.6 billion in the fourth quarter.

The company generated $8.8 billion in cash flow from operations, more than enough to cover its dividend. And it ended the quarter with $3.6 billion in free cash flow compared with $2.8 billion in Q1 last year.

The company can also tap into $9.4 billion in revolving credit without having to maintain a specific credit rating. So it can access these funds even if the coronavirus impact drags on for some time.

Verizon manages its finances well and is in a strong position to get through the coronavirus crisis. Its stability in a challenging economic environment provides security for an investor, and gives the company options once economic activity bounces back.

But is it a millionaire-maker?

Verizon makes for a solid investment, but can it deliver big returns? Not really, given the state of today's U.S. telecommunications industry. Telecoms are nearing a saturation point with smartphone adoption in the U.S. now topping 80%, and Verizon is battling its peers for the same limited pool of customers.

Instead, Verizon's growth engine is the deployment of 5G technology. This next generation of wireless allows internet-connected devices to exchange data at greater speeds than possible today. And 5G opens up possibilities for more devices to connect online, including cars, home appliances, and public transit.

This explosion of connected devices, the Internet of Things, gives Verizon an opportunity for revenue growth. It can benefit from greater sales of wireless devices and services to consumers and businesses. Verizon had 93.9 million wireless consumer-device connections in the first quarter, and 25.7 million wireless business-device connections, a large base to monetize.

How big is the opportunity? Verizon generated over $4.9 billion in wireless equipment sales during the first quarter of last year. Sales dropped to $4.1 billion this year due to the closure of nearly 70% of company-operated retail stores during the pandemic. When customers upgrade to 5G devices, Verizon's equipment sales will increase.

Another growth factor is that smartphones capable of using a 5G network are estimated at just 10% of the market today, but that's forecast to grow to 56% in 2023.

With the smartphone market alone poised for this tremendous growth, Verizon is positioned for a rise in revenue as customers upgrade to 5G-enabled devices. To give itself a competitive advantage, the company is accelerating its deployment of 5G technology, raising 2020 capital expenditures by a half-billion dollars to a range of $17.5 billion to $18.5 billion.

The bottom line

Verizon is a dependable, attractive investment today, particularly for income investors. It has done well managing its financial health, and its dividend offers an excellent yield of 4.32%.

As for delivering big gains for investors, the company holds great potential, enough to be a millionaire-maker stock. Consumers, businesses, and the public sector will benefit from a 5G wireless network, giving rise to the widespread use of connected devices.

The growth in 5G devices alone will provide increased revenue as the population transitions. So Verizon is poised to be a growth stock, raising the fortunes of investors with it.

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.