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Somewhere between Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) and disruptive startups like Digium, there is a wasteland of networking companies that tried (and failed) to compete against Cisco. Still, a few nimble firms have carved out solid networking niches for themselves. I will spend November 17 through 19 with one such company: ADTRAN Inc. (OTC:ATDN).

Here are four key issues I expect to explore during the visit.

1. Living (And Growing) In Cisco’s Shadow: Take a look at this list of companies Cisco has buried in recent years. How has ADTRAN maintained growth in an industry filled with so many business casualties or Cisco acquisitions? Some answers will emerge this week.

2. ADTRAN Financials: It has been a month since ADTRAN announced quarterly results (see conference call transcript). Those results met Wall Street’s expectations but the company’s outlook scared some investors.

Alas, the economic crisis has grown worse in recent weeks, so I wonder if the financial mood around ADTRAN has changed. This isn’t a financial conference. But I will ask a few dollars and cents questions.

3. Telecom Business: A lot of folks focus mostly on ADTRAN’s network equipment sales to businesses. But I want to hear more about ADTRAN’s work with telecom and broadband service providers. While big service providers hype fiber broadband, ADTRAN continues to push Ethernet over Copper. Are customers showing interest?

4. Managed Services:  I have noticed ADTRAN sponsoring managed services conferences in recent months. The events serve managed service providers — which are VARs and integrators that remotely manage customer networks. By hanging out at such conferences, ADTRAN seems to be researching that market. … …

It’s nearly time for my trip to ADTRAN. I'll be back online November 18 with more perspectives.

Full Disclosure: ADTRAN is covering my travel costs to the company’s “Get REAL” event in Huntsville, Alabama. If you think the paid travel impacts my objectivity, post a comment and explain where I missed the mark with my ADTRAN coverage.

Source: ADTRAN: Living - And Growing - in Cisco's Shadow?