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Juniper Tries to Shake Spending Bug

Tuesday's earnings will show if telco customers are still spending.

Investors are eager to see how Juniper (JNPR) - Get Report withstood the recent telco spending slump that crushed gear peers like Alcatel Lucent (ALU) , Tellabs (TLAB) and Ericsson (ERIC) - Get Report.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., Internet hardware shop is due to report its third-quarter earnings after the market's close Tuesday. Wall Street is fairly confident that Juniper's deft hand with data networking gear gave it an edge in a tough spending season.

Juniper shares have risen 95% over the past year as investors warmed to the company's renewed product strength. But there are lingering concerns that Juniper's telco customers could upset the magic if their demand for new gear dried up.

Last week, network infrastructure giant Ericsson became the latest supplier to blame a third-quarter shortfall on telco spending cuts. The week before, Tellabs warned of the same problem, tying its big sales drop to the slashed orders from wireless phone operators like

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

,

Verizon

(VZ) - Get Report

and

Sprint

(S) - Get Report

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.

While these are among Juniper's largest customers, observers say the Internet equipment supplier may have sidestepped the industry wireless belt-tightening.In fact, some analysts see Juniper's sales on the upswing throughout the remainder of the year.

Analysts are looking for Juniper to post an adjusted third-quarter profit number of 21 cents a share on sales of $709.8 million, according to Yahoo! Finance.

Having checked the industry sales channels, UBS analyst Nikos Theodosopoulos discovered there was healthy demand for Juniper's next generation Ethernet router, the MX960. The device "is being well received by customers, which, combined with continued strong carrier router demand, is likely to provide upside to Juniper's guidance" of about $2.75 billion in sales this year, Theodosopoulos says in a research note.

Juniper enjoys an underdog role in a two-player market dominated by

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

. While both companies make a variety of products, they also have a lock on the so-called core routing segment. This is a key product area as phone companies seek ever larger Internet management devices to handle surging traffic growth.

Industry watchers say Juniper has parlayed its success in core routing to cash in on sales of newer gear like the MX960, which helps bridge Internet protocol traffic onto speedy Ethernet pathways used by nearly all computer networks.

Juniper has been gaining traction with U.S. phone giants AT&T and Verizon, say analysts. That's why some observers have been boosting their expectations for Juniper's fourth quarter as well.

Where the Wall Street consensus estimate calls for a pro forma profit of 23 cents a share on $754.5 million in revenue in the fourth quarter, JPMorgan analyst Ehud Gelblum is looking for 24 cents on sales of $755.5 million. He rates the stock a buy.

"We are modestly increasing our fourth quarter revenue estimate," he wrote last week, "to reflect both renewed confidence in the timing of revenue for the company's new MX-series of Ethernet routers."