Sprint reverses position on MPLS

Despite its stance that Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) is not a technology that Sprint needs in its network, the carrier says by year-end it will introduce an MPLS-based VPN service.

Sprint is making the move to address "a perceived need in the marketplace," says a Sprint spokesperson.

Sprint back-peddled somewhat on its anti-MPLS stance earlier this week during an analyst briefing where Barry Tishgart, director of dedicated data services at the carrier, said the company is "looking into MPLS."

But just last year Tishgart called MPLS a "solution looking for a problem" at the NetWorld+Interop show in Atlanta. It seems the solution, MPLS, will solve one problem for Sprint: MPLS is becoming a standard that enterprise users expect their carriers to support, especially when migrating frame relay traffic to an IP network.

Although Sprint in January introduced a service that supports such a migration with L2TPv3, the service must not be fitting the bill for some users. It seems logical that Sprint must been losing customers to other carriers that are supporting MPLS or else it wouldn’t make the investment at this time.

"Sprint’s VPN services aren’t lacking compared to others in the market," says Brownlee Thomas, analyst at consulting firm Forrester Research Inc. But MPLS is the more popular technology so it wouldn’t be surprising if Sprint eventually moved toward supporting MPLS in the future, she says.

Sprint says it does not have plans to deploy MPLS in the core of its network, but will offer an MPLS-based VPN service. Details on the upcoming offering are not yet available.

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