• United States

Sprint rolls out MPLS alternative

Jan 29, 20032 mins
Cisco SystemsInternet Service ProvidersNetworking

* Sprint to introduce three services as migration paths to IP

This week Sprint is expected to introduce three new services that offer traditional data service users a migration path to IP. The services are based on a Cisco developed technology called Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol Version 3, or L2TPv3.

The technology allows a carrier to encapsulate Layer 2 traffic, such as frame relay, for transport over a Layer 3 IP network.

The three services being rolled out are called SprintLink Frame Relay, SprintLink Packet Private Line and SprintLink Virtual LAN Service.

The first two services allow a user to maintain their existing customer premise equipment and local frame relay or private line connection. Customers connect directly to an edge router on Sprint’s network that supports L2TPv3.

At the edge router a L2TPv3 tunnel, which acts like a typical permanent virtual circuit, is established between two sites on the network. The frame traffic is encapsulated and delivered over through the tunnel.

Sprint says this technology is more secure than a fully meshed offering that transports frame traffic to any location on an IP network. But that fully meshed flexibility is what some users are looking for.

Most carriers have adopted Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) to support Layer 2 traffic across their IP networks. But MPLS is a technology that Sprint has clearly stated it is not interested in deploying (see editorial links below).

Sprint says MPLS adds an unnecessary level of complexity to its network. And now with its L2TPv3 support, it can offer traditional data customers a simple migration path to IP.

There are technical differences between MPLS and L2TPv3 and also differences on how each is viewed by the industry. MPLS is an accepted standard and is deployed by many service providers. L2TPv3 is currently being reviewed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), but it is not a ratified standard at this time. And Sprint is the only carrier using the technology.

While that may change once the IETF recognizes L2TPv3 as a standard, if a carrier already has MPLS they don’t really need L2TPv3.

It remains to be seen if these issues impact the adoption of Sprint’s new services. It’s probably safe to say that if the services work well, are easy to manage and are cost effective, users will adopt them regardless if Sprint is the only carrier to use L2TPv3. In fact, it could even give the carrier a leg-up.