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Multiprotocol label switching

(also MPLS)

Multiprotocol label switching definition

Multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) serves as a tool to accelerate and regulate data traffic movement within a network. MPLS functions within a framework that is generally perceived as situated between the conventional definitions of the data link layer (the second layer) and the network layer (the third layer) in the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) reference model. As a result, MPLS paves the way for constructing end-to-end network paths, utilizing labeling approaches over any transport medium, thus eradicating the necessity for various layer-2 networks to accommodate diverse traffic types.

See also: network intrusion protection system, network security protocol

Multiprotocol label switching examples

  • Enhancing network performance: Service providers use MPLS to improve network performance and offer better quality of service (QoS) by directing data from one network node to the next based on the short path labels rather than long network addresses.
  • Traffic engineering: MPLS defines explicit traffic paths for a sequence of routers to follow, creating an optimal path for bandwidth-intensive applications.

Advantages and disadvantages of multiprotocol label switching


  • Increased speed: MPLS increases network speed by labeling data packets, which reduces the time needed to look up the network address.
  • Scalability: MPLS supports IP, ATM, SONET, and Ethernet, making it adaptable to multiple network types.
  • Traffic engineering: MPLS allows for setting explicit routes for traffic within the network, optimizing network performance.


  • Cost: Implementing MPLS networks can be expensive because it requires compatible networking hardware.
  • Complexity: MPLS requires a certain level of expertise to manage and troubleshoot.

Using multiprotocol label switching

  • Consider the types of network traffic you have and the need for speed before deciding to implement MPLS.
  • Ensure you have the necessary expertise and resources to manage an MPLS network.