Automation News

Circuit switching network users settling on purpose-built protocol

17 Oct , 2018  

SONET and SDH define a set of physical layer standards for communications over optical fibre. Many industrial backbone network users have relied upon these circuit-switched networks for decades, but are falling rapidly behind in meeting their growing needs for video, data and other high bandwidth-demanding applications.

Yet, the most common practical packet-switched alternative for many, IP/MPLS, is a protocol clearly intended for more complex carrier networks. It is proving to be too costly, complicated and feature-poor for the specific needs of utilities, transportation, pipeline and other industrial users operating their own internal network backbone.

Fortunately, there is a lesser known “flavour” of MPLS that is purpose-built to meet the needs of this large user base. Called MultiProtocol Label Switching-Transport Profile, or MPLS-TP, it just may help industrial users effectively solve their circuit-switching protocol migration challenge.


Many industrial early adopters looking to IP/MPLS immediately saw that familiar functionality provided by their circuit-switched networks was not included in the protocol, while many unneeded, complex and costly features were. MPLS-TP remedies all of this, providing, for the first time, a highly efficient packet-switched protocol that is familiar and “SONET-like” in its operation, while omitting many IP/MPLS features superfluous for industrial users.

IP/MPLS uses sophisticated algorithms to constantly analyse huge numbers of routing possibilities, searching for new paths for traffic to take. This dynamic routing—valuable to carriers but of little use to most single-user industrial networks —adds a great deal of complexity. MPLS-TP allows the user to strategically define preferred paths — both primary and alternate redundant options. These remain constant.

This specialised protocol is explained in much greater detail in a new white paper from Belden “MPLS-TP: A Superior Packet-based Technology for Industrial Applications.”

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