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A Bet on the Bandwidth Boom

Cramer knows that when the market takes a pounding, like it did these last three days, investors’ first instinct is to panic and throw in the towel. But the most important thing is to stay in the game, he said, and one of the best ways to do that is through speculation, or buying high-risk, high-reward stocks that could potentially deliver massive profits.

That’s why Cramer likes Cogent Communications , which he called “the ultimate bandwidth-shortage play.” With so many people downloading content from the Web and visiting high-quality sites, there just isn’t enough Internet bandwidth to go around. That’s where CCOI comes in.

This spec stock shouldn’t be confused with the homeland-security company Cogent, though. While Cramer likes that one, too, as it’s given investors a 14% gain since he recommended it on Oct. 16, Cogent Communications is something entirely different. This is what’s known as an alternative carrier, founded on the premise that bandwidth can be treated like a commodity: You produce it at high quantities and then undercut the competition with much lower prices.

Starting in 2000, Cogent built its own Internet Protocol data network totally independent of the traditional voice-based carrier networks. The business was built by picking up the pieces in the aftermath of the dot-com collapse, cannibalizing other telco companies and paying on average a 50% discount to the value of their property, plants and equipments. These acquisitions gave CCOI the scale necessary to become what’s called a Tier 1 Peering Partner, which allows the company to interconnect with other telco providers cost free.

But Cogent is different from other telco providers in that it sells its customers a single, cheap, all-purpose, high-speed digital connection instead of billing for discrete types of bandwidth. This is ideal for many of the small and medium-sized businesses, communications and service providers and other bandwidth-intensive organizations in North American and Europe that the company serves.

What really sets CCOI apart is the way the company supplies raw bandwidth at roughly 50% below the market price, which makes it hard for the competition to undercut Cogent. And given that Internet traffic is expected to grow at a 40% annual clip, and small and medium companies are expected to spend $35 billion on telecommunications this year, Cogent should see a big bump in business.

At $11.49, the stock is just a point off its 52-week high, following big promises made by management at two analyst conferences earlier this month. And just last week Bank of America upgraded Cogent. Cramer said he wasn’t worried about the price, though, because CCOI traded over $30 back in 2007. So there should be plenty of room left to move.

But remember: This is still “very speculative,” Cramer said, and “nobody ever lost money waiting for a pullback, especially in this tape. Don’t forget to use limit orders, and buy this one in small increments.”

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