MPLS vs. Broadband

MPLS vs. Broadband: Which is Right for You?

Internet reliability and performance are essential in modern business. Choosing the right internet connectivity option can be confusing, however. One standard business internet connectivity comparison is MPLS vs. Broadband. How can you determine which solution is right for you?

In this article, we’ll define both MPLS and broadband technologies. We’ll then outline the pros and cons of each solution so that you can pick the right service for your business.

If you still have questions or want a price quote for a connectivity service, contact Brightlio. We would love to hear from you.

What Is MPLS?

MPLS, or Multiprotocol Label Switching, is a private WAN service that provides dedicated internet connectivity. It uses labels to route traffic rather than source and destination addresses. 

In traditional IP networking, a router makes a forwarding decision based on the packet’s header. The forwarding of each packet is processed in each router’s memory via a memory table. This processing adds extra overhead that can lead to latency and performance degradation.

With MPLS, a forwarding equivalence class, or FEC, is appended to the front of each packet. The FEC label informs the routers how to route the traffic and the Class of Service (CoS) for each packet. Labeling offloads processing from the routers, thus improving the performance of the network.

MPLS services can be purchased and fully managed by a service provider. You can also build your own MPLS network by purchasing, configuring, and maintaining MPLS-capable network infrastructure. MPLS services are deployed by organizations looking to efficiently and securely route traffic between central headquarters or colocation locations and branch offices.

What Is Broadband Internet?

Broadband internet is a shared bandwidth connection that multiple businesses can use simultaneously. Rather than a dedicated circuit, like MPLS, the circuit in a broadband connection is shared by other users. Since the cost of the circuit can be spread across many customers, service providers can offer a higher bandwidth service at a lower price.

Broadband comes in several connection types, including fiber, wireless, DSL, and cable. It also comes in many speeds. It’s important to remember that the advertised speed of the broadband connection is the maximum speed a customer will get on the service. This contrasts with an MPLS connection where the speed purchased is guaranteed. There is also generally a disparity between download and upload speeds with a broadband service, with uploads typically being slower.

Broadband users rarely enjoy the same quality of service as MPLS users. This is because the internet speed is affected by the device’s location, proximity to network hubs, and the number of users sharing the network at the time. Service level guarantees and response times are also typically worse with broadband than MPLS.

MPLS vs. Broadband: Which Is Right for Your Business?

Choosing the proper business internet connection depends on your business’s unique needs. Here’s a checklist of factors to consider when selecting between Broadband and MPLS.

Network Performance

MPLS offers a dedicated bandwidth connection that is reserved solely for your business. Dedicated bandwidth means you will get a higher-performance network with an MPLS service than broadband.

The labeling technology delivered by MPLS also offers faster, lower latency routing of packets on your private network than you will see with inter-site connectivity on broadband.

Despite the performance benefits, MPLS has some drawbacks. MPLS connectivity is not optimized for the cloud. MPLS requires that traffic is backhauled to a central hub in what is called a “hub-and-spoke architecture.” This extra routing step adds latency to cloud services. 

Broadband connections allow users to route to the cloud directly. Many businesses are leveraging SD-WAN technology to overcome the limitation of MPLS with a cloud deployment. SD-WAN combines MPLS and broadband services together in a virtual WAN.

Budget

While MPLS connections are higher performance and more secure, they are also much more expensive. A 1 Gbps business broadband connection could cost as little as $100 per month. A similar MPLS connection might cost more than 10x that price.

MPLS may be out of reach for startups or businesses with a more limited network connectivity budget. Where budget is a primary factor, broadband is a great solution.

Security

MPLS is more secure than broadband services. Broadband services traverse the shared internet, while MPLS services traverse a dedicated, private network. When employees use broadband internet to access corporate data, there is a greater likelihood of data breaches or other cybersecurity incidents.

To improve the security of broadband connectivity, many businesses resort to using VPNs to encrypt traffic. They also purchase additional security equipment or firewalls to protect the company’s data. MPLS traffic is segmented from the rest of the internet, providing security similar to what you would get with a VPN.

Service Level Agreements 

A service level agreement (SLA) is a contract that defines the level of service your business will receive from the provider. MPLS contracts have strict SLAs that outline the uptime you will receive with the service. If the service provider fails to meet its commitments, the SLA also outlines your recourse, including service credits, discounts on future service, or service cancellation options.

An MPLS service also generally provides you access to technical support. You can speak to an engineer to answer your questions and troubleshoot your issues. The response time to your inquiries is also guaranteed in the service.

Broadband, on the other hand, generally either comes with a modest SLA or no SLA. There may be no uptime guarantees or committed service response times. Some broadband services don’t even include phone support.

If a downed internet circuit would lead to meaningful lost profits for your business, an MPLS circuit may be worth the cost. If you are comfortable with a slower response in the event of downtime in exchange for a lower price, broadband is the right option.

Is MPLS Still Used Today?

Absolutely. For over a decade, companies deployed MPLS to provide high-speed connections for their enterprises. However, what started as a new alternative to broadband internet became standardized in 2001. 

Companies with many branches opt for an MPLS connection model because it provides full mesh connectivity without sacrificing speed and security. In addition, these branches often require access to a data center at the organization’s headquarters or from a different location. 

Organizations also use MPLS to build network connectivity with a predictable quality of service (QoS). To achieve this, service providers define the label-switched paths (LSPs) that match the desired level of packet loss, downtime, and traffic delay. 

Recently, many companies have begun migrating to SD-WAN as a cheaper, flexible alternative to MPLS. SD-WAN allows customers to access features similar to MPLS using broadband and other lower-cost connections.  It uses a software-based networking approach to improve performance by routing data through the most optimal path.

SD-WAN also makes it possible for companies to combine the financial benefit of low-cost broadband or 4G / 5G connectivity options with the performance and security benefits of MPLS. With SD-WAN, you can develop an end-to-end encrypted tunnel that keeps your sensitive data safe, even when it roams the public internet.

In addition, SD-WAN services are often included a next-generation firewall (NGFW). The NGFW provides additional security features such as intrusion prevention, deep back inspection, application firewall, and anti-virus protection.

The Bottom Line: How Can Brightlio Help?

At Brightlio, we partner with a network of global service providers to offer connectivity solutions that meet your needs and budget. Whether you need MPLS, broadband, SD-WAN, cloud onramps, or other connectivity solution, Brightlio has a service for you.

As a telecommunications broker, we offer numerous other technology solutions, including unified communications, cloud, colocation, and advisory services. We are committed to being your most trusted and responsive IT solutions provider.

Contact our team today to get started!