Investors looking to gain broad exposure to domestic or international telecom stocks would do well to consider exchange-traded funds (ETFs) targeting the sector. Telecom ETFs offer immediate exposure to a diverse selection of telecom companies, helping investors reduce company-specific risk. Most telecom ETFs include both fixed-line and wireless telecommunications services companies, and a couple also include telecommunications equipment companies.

The ETF options on this list will enable investors to gain exposure to global telecom stocks or to limit exposure to American telecom stocks or foreign telecom stocks, respectively.

Key Takeaways

  • ETFs are a great way to get low-cost access to industry sectors or sector indices.
  • The telecom sector is not different, and there are several ETFs to choose from that cover this industry.
  • Here, we look at four such ETFs: VOX; IXP; IYZ; and XTL.

Vanguard Communications Services ETF

The Vanguard Communications Services ETF (NYSEARCA: VOX) attempts to match the investment results of the MSCI US Investable Market Communication Services 25/50 Transition Index. This index is made up of stocks from small, medium and large U.S. companies that deliver telecommunications services through fixed-line, fiber-optic, wireless and cellular networks. 

VOX seeks to replicate the performance of the underlying index by investing in the same stocks in the same proportions as the index whenever possible. However, when regulatory constraints do not allow full replication, a sampling strategy is used to approximate the characteristics of the index.

As of April 2020, VOX includes about $2.0 billion in net assets across 112 stocks. Just over 73% of assets are allocated to the fund's 10 largest holdings. About 23.1% of assets are allocated to Alphabet Inc. and 16.4% to Facebook stock. The rest of the top five holdings in the fund are AT&T, Verizon, and Netflix Inc., each of which accounts for 5 to 7% of net assets. VOX has a very low expense ratio of 0.10%.

iShares US Telecommunications ETF

The iShares US Telecommunications ETF (NYSEARCA: IYZ) provides investors with exposure to U.S. companies offering telephone and internet products and services. This fund seeks to match the performance of the Dow Jones U.S. Select Telecommunications Index, which is made up of a representative selection of U.S. telecommunications stocks that may change over time. IYZ does not attempt to replicate the holdings of the Dow Jones U.S. Select Telecommunications Index. Rather, it employs a representative sampling strategy to closely approximate the characteristics and investment profile of the index. In normal circumstances, at least 90% of the fund's assets match those held in the index.

In contrast to the Vanguard ETF described above, IYZ's underlying index caps the weights of its component stocks, thereby avoiding outsized exposure to the industry giants, Verizon Communications and AT&T. As of May 2020, IYZ has about $349.3 million in net assets across 39 equities. Its largest holdings are in Verizon at about 20.56% and AT&T at about 18.76%. T-Mobile is allocated at about 6.3%, while Arista Networks, Cisco Systems, and Garmin each have an allocation of around 5%. IYZ has an expense ratio of 0.42%.

iShares Global Comm Services ETF

The iShares Global Comm Services ETF (NASDAQ: IXP) offers exposure to global telecommunications companies offering telephone and internet products and services, including those based in the U.S. The fund attempts to track the performance of the Standard and Poor's Global 1200 Communications Services Sector Index. This index is made up of multinational telecommunications companies deemed to be important to global equities markets. It is a sectoral subset of the S&P Global 1200 Index. IXP attempts to track the investment results of the underlying index by employing a representative sampling strategy.

As of May 2020, IXP includes about $281 million of net assets spread across 68 holdings. The largest allocation in the fund is to Facebook at about 14.34%, with Alphabet Inc Class A shares at 10.85%. Alphabet Inc Class C has a 10.79% allocation, Tencent Holdings has a 8.25% allocation, and Netflix and Disney are just under 5%. The geographic breakdown includes the U.S. at 67.01%, China at 9.57%, Japan at 8.31%, and the U.K. at 2.55%. IXP has an expense ratio of 0.46%.

SPDR S&P Telecom ETF

The SPDR S&P Telecom ETF (NYSEARCA: XTL) attempts to deliver investment performance corresponding to the S&P Telecom Select Industry Index. This index includes select integrated telecommunications companies, wireless telecommunications companies and communications equipment companies headquartered in the U.S. Companies are selected on the basis of market capitalization and liquidity requirements, among other factors. The index is a sectoral subset of the S&P Total Market Index.

XTL uses a sampling strategy to create a portfolio with the same investment profile as the underlying index. As of May 2020, XTL had $48.6 million in net assets across 40 equities. Only five of the fund's holdings exceed 4.00% of assets. Bandwith Inc. Class A has an allocation of about 6.2%, Vonage Holdings is at 4.63%, T-Mobile US and Ciena Corporation at 4.48% and Arista Networks at 4.14%. XTL has an expense ratio of 0.35%.