It seems as though the folks at ADTRAN (NASDAQ:ADTN) may be getting things back on track. In its Monday night press release, the company reported earnings of $0.19 per share in the fourth quarter, $0.02 ahead of expectations. The news sent the stock up over 8% on Tuesday, to $17.04. There's nothing more gratifying than lowering the expectation bar and then stepping right over it.

ADTRAN, which supplies telecommunications equipment for digital subscriber line (DSL) high-speed Internet access, lowered its third-quarter guidance and its fourth-quarter guidance. It pulled a bonehead move and missed its lowered third-quarter numbers. Fortunately, it did not make the same mistake twice. And I wonder whether the company hasn't sunk into value territory.

Since the third quarter, CEO Mark Smith has cited weakness in demand, or a "pause," as he put it. He noted that regional Bell operating customers such as Verizon (NYSE:VZ), BellSouth (NYSE:BS), and SBC (NYSE:SBC) have been waiting for ADTRAN's DSLAM product upgrades before making purchases. Analysts have said that these carriers have been shifting capital spending over to building out their fiber broadband networks, for which ADTRAN does not have a product -- yet.

ADTRAN prefers to take a wait-and-see approach to product development. Typically, the company passes on the first generation, introduces a competitive product during the second wave, and upgrades it through its life cycle. That's a good strategy as long as the economics of the environment don't create a winner-take-all scenario, a scenario I feel is not the case here.

So let's suppose that ADTRAN has begun to turn the corner and that the "pause" is starting to work itself out. In that case, the company should be able to start growing again. But if things are not going to pick up for a little while longer, one thing on the balance sheet should act as a safety net: the $2.10 per diluted share in cash. Couple that with the fact that as of the third quarter, the company still had positive free cash flow, was buying back shares, and was paying out a dividend (yielding about 2%), and it might begin to look like a value play.

Telecommunications is a tough, competitive business. And although its success has been a little bumpy, ADTRAN has managed to keep producing cash. So it certainly does not hurt to take a look at what you could be getting for $17 a share and some change today.

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Fool contributor David Meier does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned.