A communications solutions provider has added to its recent strategic and business agreements by signing a Multiprotocol Label Switching contract with one of Canada’s big five banks.

Allstream and Scotiabank, both of Toronto, agreed to terms requiring the former to migrate the latter’s 1,050 branch locations nationwide from an existing network to an MPLS IP platform. Allstream will achieve this using its Business IP tool, which runs on an MPLS backbone.

According to the two firms, Allstream will provide connectivity between the bank’s branches and data centres. Scotiabank, Allstream said, will benefit from seamless end-to-end service scalability thorough service level agreement nationwide high-speed access and single point-of-contact for billing, maintenance and support. Capable of supporting up to four different classes of services to ensure prioritization of business applications, the MPLS-based backbone will facilitate the convergence of voice and data traffic onto a single network.

Allstream announced last month that it would work with BT, a provider of communications solutions serving customers in Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific, to jointly determine how to better meet the needs of Canadian and multinational companies that have cross-border and international requirements. It also recently announced a three-year MPLS contract with Great-West Life.

“”MPLS is a positioning move to enable the branches for multimedia,”” said JP Savage, senior vice-president of systems, operations and technical services at Scotiabank. He said an ‘advisor online’ option giving branches access to expertise they may lack in-house and a ‘call redirect’ option enabling persons phoning branches to be redirected to service centres will be among the services better provided through MPLS. “”It will enable a variety of multimedia initiatives.””

Although the financial institution has been using high-speed networking infrastructure in its branches since about 1997 or 1998, Savage said the DSL-based network lacks the quality of service offered by an MPLS network. Fifty to 60 branches are currently being outfitted with MPLS capability, but the major rollout will commence in May 2005 and should be done by November.

“”The service level agreement not only addresses at a macro level, but also at a branch-by-branch level,”” said Savage, stressing all branches will benefit regardless of location.

Acknowledging the Allstream-Scotiabank deal will lead to one of the largest MPLS network deployments for a Canadian firm, Tal Bevan, executive vice-president of sales at Allstream, said his company is currently talking to other financial institutions about the MPLS solution.

“”Not only are we having other discussions with other financial institutions, but we’re having discussions with all verticals,”” said Bevan. “”We are encouraged to see customers taking advantage of technologies they’ve asked us to put in place.””

Michelle Warren, IT industry analyst at Evans Research Corp. in Toronto, said the contract is all about achieving improved productivity in the Canadian financial community.

“”Scotiabank is (getting) another tool to increase productivity, data transfers and security,”” she said. “”It’s really a stamp of approval for Allstream.””

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