infinera_logo.gifLast year, we wrote about Infinera, the telecom company in Sunnyvale on which an all-star team of venture capitalists was making one of the “gutsiest” bets of the post-bubble era. Now comes news — better late than never — that it may be living up to the hype. It has scored a major contract with Level 3 Communications, which analysts tell the WSJ (sub req) may be valued at $50 million.

Rewind to last year:

…Back in October, the company raised $52 million more in venture capital, making for a $205 million total raised since 2001. That’s risky enough, but the technology was a bit bet too: Its technology aimed to do the entire light-to-light conversion for network data switching on two chips — replacing the 50 or so parts currently used by most carriers, for less than half the cost — and taking up about one-tenth the space.

Chief Executive Jagdeep Singh was real modest, saying the Infinera chips are the equivalent of the shift to jet engines from turbo propeller engines. He told us then he expected to “close multiple contracts by the end of the year.”

Well, we didn’t see any announcements last year. But the Level 3 deal is the second this year (the first was this one). Now the question is, can Infinera get enough deals to compensate for the hundreds of millions invested in it?