BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL) is the wireless darling of Wall Street, as the iPhone and iPad maker has rewarded investors with a 53% increase in its share price in the past year amid record earnings and revenue.Many other wireless-related stocks, from handset makers like Research In Motion ( RIMM) to service providers such as Verizon ( VZ), are unloved by investors because they've underperformed the market for years. But their time may finally have come. The S&P 500 is up 3% this year, while Spain's Telefonica ( TEF) has rallied nearly 10%, Vodafone ( VOD) has climbed 8%, Research in Motion is up almost 7% and Sprint Nextel ( S) has added more than 6%. Wall Street may just be waking up to a sector that has notched a woeful performance over the past several years, but fund managers have been trumpeting telecom as an undervalued sector that pays hefty dividends -- typically a characteristic of mature companies -- while also offering growth thanks to the explosion of mobile Internet. Cliff Remily, manager of the Thornburg Investment Income Builder Fund ( TIBAX) is overweight the telecom sector, citing the huge wave of data services and smartphone penetration that he believes is just beginning. "Seeing the magnitude as it develops is amazing," Remily says from his office in Santa Fe. "It's not just the U.S. We have stocks in Thailand, Singapore, Korea, Australia. This is around the world. Frankly, it's fun to watch the fundamentals develop and percolate. It's fun to see the beginning because investors don't believe it yet." One of the key reasons investors aren't believers is due to the lagging performance of many telecom names. Over the past five years, as the S&P 500 has lost 0.7%, the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Telecom ETF ( IYZ) has fallen 11%. In the past decade, the ETF has dropped 35%, compared to a 14% gain on the S&P 500. Investors are also keenly aware of how fickle consumers can be with their choice of wireless companies. Palm at one time was among the top personal-device companies before being swallowed up by Hewlett-Packard ( HP) last year. Nokia ( NOK) was once the world's hottest cell-phone maker but the stock has lost half its value in the past year. Wireless providers like AT&T have ranked low in customer satisfaction due to reception problems, dropped calls, poor customer service and increasing bills. The sector was jolted earlier this week after AT&T ( T) announced a $39 billion deal to acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom ( DT). Potential regulatory scrutiny makes it tough for fund managers to judge whether AT&T is a good stock pick now. But AT&T isn't the only name in the sector. TheStreet spoke to four fund managers with exposure to wireless stocks, from chipmakers to handset manufacturers to service providers, for their best picks for a sector rebound.
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