Carrier Ethernet vs. MPLS: The Ultimate Guide to Their Difference

Carrier Ethernet and Multiprotocol Label Switching are two networking terms associated with internet service provision.

Carrier Ethernet is a network infrastructure that uses the Ethernet standard to interconnect different branches of an organization over a wide area.

MPLS, on the other hand, is a packet-forwarding technology that uses labels to forward traffic.

In this guide, we’ll dive into Carrier Ethernet vs. MPLS, exploring how they differ in each scenario.

 What is Carrier Ethernet?

Carrier Ethernet is an Ethernet transport network that utilizes Ethernet standards to provide transmission between different Local Area Networks (LANs). It operates at Layer 2 of the OSI model and boasts several distinguishing characteristics.

Carrier allows organizations to connect multiple sites and create a unified network infrastructure using only Ethernet Standard unlike in normal Wide Area Network.

What is MPLS?

Unlike conventional IP routing, MPLS routes packets based on labels assigned to them, rather than relying solely on layer 3 information. This label-based routing mechanism offers improved efficiency and faster packet forwarding.

With MPLS, organizations can prioritize critical applications, allocate bandwidth accordingly, and ensure optimal performance for their network infrastructure.

Carrier Ethernet vs. MPLS: Key Differences

Here are key differences between Carrier Ethernet and MPLS;

  1. Network Layer of Operation: Carrier Ethernet operates at Layer 2 of the OSI model, while MPLS operates at Layer 2.5, sitting between Layer 2 and Layer 3.
  2. Packet forwarding mechanism: Carrier Ethernet employs switching techniques to forward Ethernet frames within the network. It relies on MAC addresses to make forwarding decisions. MPLS, on the other hand, uses label-based routing. It assigns labels to packets at the ingress point and makes forwarding decisions based on these labels throughout the network.
  3. Standardization: Under the same umbrella as Metro Ethernet, Carrier Ethernet is standardized by the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) and some other bodies. These standards ensure strong connectivity, compatibility, and ease of integration between carrier Ethernet networks and equipment. MPLS, on the other hand, is standardized by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The standardized MPLS protocols include LDP (Label Distribution Protocol) and RSVP-TE (Resource Reservation Protocol-Traffic Engineering).
  4. Bandwidth: Both MPLS and carrier Ethernet support high bandwidth in the network. The real bandwidth actually depends on the value the ISP assigns to their customer, who is using carrier Ethernet or MPLS in his network.
  5. Cost: The initial setup costs of carrier Ethernet and MPLS implementations can vary based on factors such as network size and complexity. Carrier Ethernet typically requires Ethernet switches and routers, while MPLS requires label-switching routers (LSRs) and label edge routers (LERs).
  6. Coverage: Carrier Ethernet is typically used for wide area networks, so its coverage level can include state, country, or international interconnection, while MPLs, on the other hand, can be implemented on wide area networks or networks with a higher coverage level.
  7. Scalability: Both carrier Ethernet and MPLs allow organizations to scale their network. They both support high bandwidth, allowing organizations to increase their network traffic without any congestion.
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Conclusion

With what we have covered in this post, I believe you have understood the major difference between MPLS and carrier Ethernet.

MPLS is a traffic routing technology that uses labels to make a forwarding decision. This packet forwarding occurs at layer 2 of the OSI model, unlike the normal IP routing that occurs at layer 3 of the OSI model.

Carrier Ethernet, on the other hand, is an Ethernet transport network used to interconnect organizations with branches geographically distributed within a wide area.

If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comment section below or exhaust the following content to find more information.

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