Sycamore Networks (NASDAQ:SCMR), maker of optical networking products, is reporting third-quarter earnings after the market's close today. The estimates call for it to lose $0.04 per share on revenues of $8.84 million. This compares to a loss of $0.05 on $10.6 million in the same quarter last year.

To refresh your memory, Sycamore was one of the hottest telecom offerings in the late 1990s. Sycamore's initial public offering (IPO) was priced at $38 on October 22, 1999 and opened for trading at $270.88. The stock quickly found its way to $330 per share before splitting 3-for-1 on February 14, 2000. You may be dazzled, but many other tech IPOs in those days did the same thing. It all started coming apart for Sycamore's stock in March 2000, and then broke investors' hearts again after a four-month rally in the summer of 2000.

After disappearing for a couple of years, Sycamore popped up again on many stock screens last spring because it was trading below its cash per share. This made the shares attractive to value investors, despite still not having earnings.

That brings us to today. Sycamore's still without profits. But it may be the right company for the future of optical networking, having been chosen by the Defense Information Systems Agency to participate in the Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion project, known as GIG-BE. Sycamore was awarded one of four contracts for GIG-BE. It may take awhile for this award to be reflected in its quarterly reports.

Fortunately, Sycamore's balance sheet allows investors time to wait. It has no debt and $633 million in cash, which works out to $2.32 per share. Lastly, there have been no insider sales since August 2002.

Sycamore has a good track record of meeting earnings estimates, and this time is likely to be no different. More importantly, the market is not likely to care much about this report. A good way to think of this stock is as a lottery ticket. Success with the GIG-BE could lead to more contracts, which could lead to a much higher price in the next few years.

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Fool contributor Roger Nusbaum is an Investment Manager and Wildland Firefighter in Prescott, Ariz. At the time of this article, neither he nor his clients owned shares in Sycamore Networks.