Network Middle East electronic edition 7th March, 2005

Batelco’s recent adoption of MPLS technology to provide IP VPN services for large corporates is a significant move and shows how telcos in the region are quickly moving their infrastructure to internet-based technology.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  March 5, 2005

Protocol power|~||~||~|Batelco’s recent announcement that it will make a Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS)-based IP VPN service available to provide fast connections between the dispersed offices of larger enterprises shows how quickly Batelco is embracing IP. Batelco plans to use the service to offer communications that act like an extension of the private corporate network. The service is being offered to enterprises and government bodies and is designed to increase application performance and curtail rising bandwidth costs. The telco is offering the connectivity in both managed and un-managed packages. There is growing pressure on Gulf States to liberalise their telecoms sectors, with countries seeking to move away from dependence on oil and gas and keen to meet World Trade Organisation (WTO) guidelines for membership. In this environment, it is essential that the incumbent operators show that they can come up with effective business solutions for the regional market. That’s why Batelco’s IP VPN service is so important. As the company finds itself squeezed by competitors, its traditional revenue streams will prove less lucrative and if it is to continue to thrive, Batelco and other service providers will have to look to more sophisticated services to create new revenue streams. Batelco is not alone in its efforts, with Jordan Telecom recently revamping its network to offer better performance and announcing plans to sell managed network services as part of its Vision 2005 initiative. Underscoring these ambitions is MPLS. The switching protocol that has been around for some time, but with more voice and video traffic moving across networks — it is coming into its own. The initial goal of MPLS was to bring the speed of Layer 2 switching to Layer 3, however, it has brought several unforeseen benefits including affording service providers the ability to create IP VPN tunnels throughout their network, without the need for encryption or end-user applications. This, combined with the label switching in the protocol, allows for faster transport of information. In an MPLS network, incoming packets are assigned a label by a label edge router (LER). Packets are forwarded along a label switch path (LSP) where each label switch router (LSR) makes forwarding decisions based solely on the contents of the label. At each hop, the LSR strips off the existing label and applies a new label, which tells the next hop how to forward the packet. An LSP can be established that crosses multiple Layer 2 transports such as ATM, SONET, Frame Relay or Ethernet. This means service providers can use MPLS to create end-to-end circuits, with specific performance characteristics, across any type of transport medium, eliminating the need for overlay networks or Layer 2 only control mechanisms. MPLS also allows network traffic to be classified into Classes-of-Service (CoS), each with its own level of priority. This allows the network to distinguish between delay-sensitive traffic, such as voice, video conferencing, voice over IP, SAP, ERP and multimedia applications, and non delay-sensitive data, such as e-mail and web browsing. With MPLS, the enterprise effectively has traffic prioritisation built-in. MPLS is an unheralded technology but it is gaining ground fast and it will play an important role in helping regional telcos in their bids to diversify their business. It will also be key in driving efficiency in the enterprise WAN.||**||

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