March 2, 2022

What is an MPLS network and how does it work ?

What is an MPLS network

MPLS stands for Multiprotocol Label Switching. Sounds very complicated right? Don’t worry, by the end of this blog you will have a clear understanding of MPLS.

You surely have noticed when you order any product online, the delivery route is quite long. When you track the product, it seems to have travelled distant places throughout the country before reaching our doorstep. 

This is also the way IP routing works on the Internet. The IP packet received by any internet router does not carry any information about the destination IP address. Thus to put it simply, the IP packet does not have any guided route to its destination.

So, it is up to each router to decide the next forwarding route based on the network-layer header of the IP packet. In literal words, you can say there is a point where each and every router through which the packet shall pass must process or “think” where to forward the packet next. The routers execute this by following the complex routing tables. This is where MPLS comes in. 

What is MPLS?

how does mpls work

Multiprotocol Label Switching or MPLS is a technology in data forwarding that helps increase and regulate the network flow traffic. By using MPLS, data is sent through a route by means of labels replacing the complicated lookups in the routing table at every stop. Since this system is independent of a particular protocol, it works with IP and ATM. Since MPLS is a system, it can easily transfer data from IP VPNs to metro Ethernet.

MPLS was widely used by top firms in order to connect remote branches that need data access in the firm’s headquarters.

How does MPLS work?

MPLS works on designated pathways called Label Switched Paths or LSPs. These are unidirectional routes between pairs of routers across the MPLS network.

  • Firstly, the IP packet enters the MPLS network through a Label Edge Router, also called an ingress node
  • Then, based on the data type and its destination, it is allocated to a Forwarding Equivalence Class (FEC). FECs identify packets with similar properties.
  • Once the FEC identifies the pacet, a label is applied to the packet by the ingress node. Then it is compressed in the LSP.
  • The packet proceeds through transit nodes or Label Switch Routers, guided by the instructions included in the packet.
  • The label is removed at the final router at the end of the LSP or the egress node, where the packet proceeds through normal IP routing.

MPLS Pros and Cons:

MPLS Pros:

  • Provides better performance.
  • Optimum bandwidth utilization.
  • Less network traffic.
  • More secure. (Being segregated from the public Internet, it resembles virtual/private network)

MPLS Cons:

  • Cannot keep up with the efficiency of cloud based data transmission.
  • It is an expensive investment for organizations.



SD-WANs or Software Defined Wide Area Networks are most likely to replace MPLS in the near future. Several organizations are upgrading to hybrid computing, especially the post-Covid scenario has enabled this adaptation to be even quicker. The cloud based data transmission is more energy efficient as well as cost effective.

MPLS however has an advantage over SD-WAN since it delivers more reliable performance in real-time traffic. Whereas in the case of SD-WAN, as soon as the IP packet proceeds to the Internet, there is no guarantee on performance.

But again since SD-WAN  is a transport-agonistic overlay and thus can route to any kind of traffic including MPLS. Whereas, MPLS has designated routes which cannot be changed at will by using software assistance.

For now, it shall be a wise decision to keep using both MPLS and SD-WAN side by side. MPLS is more reliable in time-sensitive data transmission and SD-WAN is most effective in cloud centric data transmission. Together they can keep a stable performance at sustainable cost.

In order to solve the multi-point connectivity issues Zajil garnered the capability to deliver international connectivity for high speed data consumers using Global MPLS services. When It comes to time-sensitive data transmission, the MPLS technology outranks any other in speed and credibility. To know more check out our Global MPLS services.

Zajil’s SD-WAN services are delivered using Secure Access Service Edge or SASE platform. The SASE  platform makes cloud networking and cloud security work hand-in-hand. This makes data delivery more secure and flexible. Contact us today to avail uninterrupted high-quality communication services for your organization.

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