When is MPLS Required for Unified Communications?

By Neil Zawacki
Updated: January 27, 2011

Multiple Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a scalable means to transmit data between network nodes through the use of virtual links. The mechanism tends to be very reliable and eliminates traditional problems with signaling protocols. This can make it a powerful method to achieve unified communications.

One of the central benefits of MPLS is to help ensure Quality of Service. Unified communications generally suffer from significant latency problems - they have to sent packets via a central hub in order to properly function, which in turn slows everything down. MPLS solves this issue by providing the ability for each site on your wide area network to send information to each other directly.

On a similar note, voice and video quality for unified communications is often poor due to network congestion. With MPLS, you can reserve a specific amount of bandwidth ahead of time for your data streams. This is not a necessity to achieve unified communications, but it can potentially help.

MPLS can also help your company save money on implementation costs. MPLS requires far less infrastructure to function than most available choices. If your company does not have the appropriate equipment or telephony already in place, you may need to adopt MPLS just to afford the system.

Operating expenses for MPLS are generally lower as well. Having a single network for data and voice communication can save a significant amount of money in the long run, and scaling the network tends to be a much easier process.

MPLS also allows businesses to use convergence applications that can help ensure unified communications. Four of the most common ones include: multicasting, PSTN SIP trunking, Video Conferencing, and desktop VoIP.

Multicasting

Normally, a device that sends a multicast packet has to submit the information separately to every device on the receiving end. With multicasting, the network sends the data to all the users as a single action. MPLS is particularly effective in how it performs this function, making it potentially advantageous for companies who regularly use the feature.

PSTN SIP trunking

This allows your company to make VOIP calls through a PBX (private branch exchange). You no longer need to be concerned about basic rate interfaces or primary rate interfaces, which in turn can your business money and provide you with multi-user white boarding and a configurable set of parameters for incoming calls.

Video Conferencing

The MPLS core uses substantially less bandwidth than many available options. The visual and sound quality of videoconferencing is thus improved and high definition broadcasts become more cost effective.

Desktop VoIP 

This means that anyone can make nationwide or international phone calls through the network without the usual long distance fees. If your company is making a significant number of phone calls, this convergence application can help your business save money. It’s also much easier to reconfigure – when someone needs to move to a different office, they simply unplug the phone and connect it to the new location.

MPLS is not strictly necessary under some circumstances for unified communications. It is often the most practical choice, however, and for a company to thrive in difficult economic times, its benefits should be considered.
 

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