NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Earnings season is in full swing and so far this week's results have been mixed.While we have seen a handful of companies follow Google's ( GOOG) lead and report standout numbers, optimism has often been offset by tepid and downright dismal numbers from other notables. Goldman Sachs ( GS) and Bank of America ( BAC) are some of the most recent companies to release uninspiring reports. Goldman reported a $428 million loss in the third quarter, marking only the second quarterly loss ever for the Wall Street titan since going public. As we head into the latter half of the week, there are still a wide collection of companies waiting to report their quarterly earnings and provide insight into the final months of 2011. They include General Electric ( GE), Microsoft ( MSFT), Philip Morris ( PM) and Union Pacific ( UNP). Telecom goliaths AT&T ( T) and Verizon Wireless ( VZ) are two other big names slated to report their quarterly earnings. For ETF investors with exposure to the telecommunications industry, Thursday and Friday will be the days to watch. Thanks in large part to the ample dividends associated with companies like Verizon, AT&T, and CenturyLink ( CTL) many place telecom alongside other defensive sectors like utilities and consumer staples. For ETF investors, however, gaining exposure to this sector through telecom-related funds has traditionally been risky. Due to the dominance of Verizon and AT&T, most products designed to target this industry designate the largest slices of their portfolios to these two companies. For example, the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Telecommunications Sector Index Fund ( IYZ) lists the pair as its two largest positions. Together, they account for close a third of the fund's total assets. In total, the fund's ten largest positions represent over 70% of its portfolio. IYZ properly reflects the dominance Verizon and AT&T currently have over the telecom realm. However, for long-term investors looking for stability, the top-heavy nature of this fund may be disconcerting. State Street appears to have heard the call for a more evenly distributed telecom option. In the final days of September, the company unveiled the SPDR S&P Telecom ETF ( XTL). Unlike its market-weighted competitors, XTL takes on the telecom sector using a relatively equal weighted indexing strategy. None of the 64 components comprising this newcomer's underlying index represents more than 2.3% if its assets. AT&T and Verizon account for approximately 1.8% a piece.
The fund's 10 largest holdings represent 20% of its assets. XTL differs from other telecom ETFs on other levels as well. For instance, whereas a product like IYZ offers pure exposure to traditional telecommunication names, XTL appears to be a telecom/networking hybrid. On top of companies like VZ and T, its index also includes a wide collection of networking-related names, including F5 Networks ( FFIV), Motorola Solutions ( MSI), Qualcomm ( QCOM), and Polycom ( PLCM). This newcomer is also a relatively inexpensive option. With an expense ratio of 0.35%, XTL undercuts IYZ by 12 basis points. The Vanguard Telecommunication Services ETF ( VOX) still holds the crown as the cheapest telecom ETF option, charging 0.24%. The addition of XTL to the line up of top-heavy telecom ETFs is refreshing and in the weeks and months ahead there is a good chance that the fund can gain steam. While its prospects appear encouraging, however, I encourage investors to stick to the sidelines for the time being. As with any brand new product, XTL will likely take time to gather an adequate following. The fund's current average trading volume stands at a paltry 2,800. Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.