Are telco shares winners now that everyone's staying home?

Telstra and TPG shares are struggling. So are they bargains with Australians now using home and mobile internet like there's no tomorrow?

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COVID-19 has changed the way we work and play like very few of us would have imagined at the start of the year.

Both adults and children are spending so much more time at home. This means more spending per household on utilities like electricity, water and gas.

A uniquely 21st century utility is internet connectivity.

Households are now, more than ever, reliant on internet access through either mobile or fixed line for their work, study and leisure.

The wholesaler, National Broadband Network (NBN), even handed out extra capacity for no cost during the depths of the first national lockdown.

So telecommunications retailers should be cashing in, right?

The share prices of the two big players on the ASX, Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX: TLS) and TPG Telecom Ltd (ASX: TPG), would suggest they're struggling.

Telstra was as high as $3.90 in January but now languishes at $2.88. TPG started at $8.90 at the end of June when it merged with Vodafone, but is now stumbling at $7.33.

That begs the question: Are they bargains about to shoot up, or is the telecommunications market too commoditised and too saturated?

Betashares senior investment specialist Cameron Gleeson is pessimistic.

"Changes to the way we work and study may not necessarily be a strong tailwind for Australian telcos," he told The Motley Fool.

"With the full roll-out of the NBN and the reduction in monopolist revenue from fixed line services, Telstra faces increased price competition in reselling NBN plans and in mobile."

An alternative to telecommunications

Gleeson told The Motley Fool that investors instead should look at a different, and often-overlooked, sector.

"Another sector perhaps better-placed to benefit from behavioural changes brought on by the global pandemic is the global cybersecurity industry."

Hackers are exploiting the increased time we have online due to the pandemic, according to Gleeson.

"Increasing awareness of the cyber threat across business and government, coupled with the structural shift towards an online economy could prove to be the catalyst for expansion in an already rapidly-growing industry."

Motley Fool contributor Tony Yoo has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of and has recommended Telstra Limited. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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