It's not exactly a household name, but Novatel Wireless (NASDAQ:NVTL) hopes that someday it will be. The maker of wireless PC cards and modems has made quite a buzz in the markets lately -- the stock has vaulted over 2000% in the past year.

Jumping back in the limelight, shares surged 17% yesterday to just more than $19 on a trio of press statements released with development partner Lucent Technologies (NYSE:LU). The recent announcements confirmed three more European carriers will offer Novatel's products to customers of their newly launched (or soon to launch) 3G networks.

Still in the "teething stage," third-generation network operators in Europe are easing into commercial operation of their high-speed networks by offering data-only products. Data connections are much more tolerant of delays and hiccups -- voice connections are far less forgiving. Rather than risking dropped calls and angry customers, carriers are first gauging their network maturity with data users, hoping to bring voice services online later, when good quality of service is established.

These deals follow on the heels of several other international wins for Novatel in 2003. Novatel also got a big boost when it announced a deal to provide Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) with data cards for its high-speed 3G network based on Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) 1xEV-DO technology (say that three times fast!).

The dramatic rise in Novatel stock stems from an almost "too good to be true" turnaround story: As consumer and business spending slowed to a crawl between 2000 and 2002, the company was left for dead by early 2003.

After a late-2000 IPO opening at $12, within a year the company was in penny-stock land, struggling to stay alive. It was burning cash and orders were dwindling in the face of larger rivals such as highflierSierra Wireless (NASDAQ:SWIR). Several private placements and debt offerings kept it afloat while it reorganized and even approved a sure killer -- a 1-for-15 reverse share split.

The bloodletting continued, though, until the company hit bottom then brought in a new CEO and profitability plan in 2003. By mid-year, the company was back on track and the balance sheet was improving. Novatel still sits in a precarious position, however, and it'll need all those euros to work through years of debt and dilution.

But with a new lease on life, a $300 million market cap, and a forward P/E of 30, Novatel is once again a contender -- albeit a risky and expensive one.

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Motley Fool contributor Dave Mock is still looking for cheap wireless investments -- but alas, there are none to be found. He owns shares of Lucent.