BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Telecom stocks are among the worst performers this year, falling an average of 11% and ranking 149th of 154 industry groups on the S&P 500. Still, the following five companies garner "buy" ratings from TheStreet's quantitative model.

5. Windstream ( WIN) provides telecom services in rural areas of the U.S.

The numbers: Fourth-quarter profit decreased 7% to $76 million, or 17 cents a share, as revenue declined 3% to $754 million. The operating margin contracted from 36% to 34%. Windstream holds $1.1 billion of cash and $6.3 billion of debt.

The stock: Windstream has dropped 5% over the past year, lagging behind major U.S. indices. The stock trades at a price-to-projected-earnings ratio of 13, on par with competitors. It offers a 9.7% dividend yield, but an excessive payout ratio of 131%.

4. Hickory Tech ( HTCO) provides wireline and digital-TV services.

The numbers: Fourth-quarter profit dropped 15% to $1.4 million, or 11 cents a share, as revenue inched up 1.8% to $38 million. Hickory's operating margin hovered beneath 11%. Its balance sheet contains $2.4 million of cash and $127 million of debt.

The stock: Hickory Tech has soared 69% in the past year, more than the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500. The stock trades at a price-to-earnings ratio of 10, a discount to peers. It offers a 5.9% dividend yield and a payout ratio of 60%.

3. Atlantic Tele-Network ( ATNI) offers telecom services in the U.S. and the Caribbean. The company is scheduled to report fourth-quarter results today.

The numbers: Third-quarter profit rose 18% to $12 million, or 78 cents a share, as revenue increased 18% to $66 million. The operating margin expanded from 36% to 38%. The company possesses $99 million of cash and $74 million of debt.

The stock: Atlantic Tele-Network has surged 135% over the past 12 months, beating major benchmarks. The stock sells for a price-to-projected-earnings ratio of 9, a 31% discount to the industry average. It offers a 1.7% dividend yield.

2. CenturyTel ( CTL) is a telecom focused on rural areas and small cities.

The numbers: Fourth-quarter net income more than doubled to $230 million. Earnings per share dropped 25% to 76 cents, hurt by a merger-related dilution. Revenue nearly tripled to $1.8 billion. The operating margin widened from 19% to 31%. CenturyTel holds $162 million of cash and $7.8 billion of debt.

The stock: CenturyTel has gained 45% in the past year, underperforming major indices. The stock trades at a price-to-projected-earnings ratio of 11, a discount to peers. It offers an 8.1% dividend yield with a lofty payout ratio of 110%.

1. AboveNet ( ABVT) sells infrastructure services to businesses. The company is scheduled to release fourth-quarter numbers March 10.

The numbers: Third-quarter profit more than doubled to $23 million, or 88 cents a share, as revenue climbed 18% to $92 million. AboveNet's operating margin expanded from 14% to 27%. Its balance sheet stores $126 million of cash and $34 million of debt.

The stock: AboveNet has appreciated 41% since a stock-split in September, beating U.S. indices. The shares are expensive compared to those of peers based on projected earnings, book value, sales and cash flow. A premium is justified for growth prospects.

-- Reported by Jake Lynch in Boston.