Approach or Avoid These 2 Top Techs?

Focus: STOCKS

Rob DeFrancesco Image Rob DeFrancesco Founder, Tech-Stock Prospector

Select techs had quite a run in 2012, but the question is whether they keep their momentum or take a breather in 2013, observes Rob DeFrancesco of Tech Stock Prospector.

Shares of Acme Packet (APKT) jumped nearly 12% on heavy volume in one session in early January thanks to a Stifel Nicolaus upgrade to Buy with a price target of $27.

The firm thinks carriers are finally starting to firm up the timing of their Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) projects, which is a big positive for Acme Packet. With new rollouts from Tier-1 carriers in the US expected to start in the second half of the year, Acme Packet could see strong order momentum beginning in the first half.

Stifel Nicolaus says its checks indicate that AT&T (T) will begin testing its VoLTE network in Q2, with a consumer debut likely in the second half. The firm thinks AT&T has already deployed some Acme Packet SBCs for its initial rollout, and that additional orders are likely to come in over the near term.

Stifel Nicolaus says it expects AT&T to be “incrementally stronger” as a customer over the next three to six months, and looks for Verizon (VZ) orders to ramp up ahead of a VoLTE launch in Q3 or Q4 of this year. Acme Packet has 27 VoLTE projects in its pipeline, with committed launch dates for 11 to 13 of these deployments, according to Stifel Nicolaus.

The trade association GSA says there are now 105 commercial LTE networks in 48 countries and 194 LTE network deployments in progress, indicating the move to VoLTE is taking shape, albeit a little later than expected.