Multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) adds a label to an IP packet that allows users to keep all IP packets from the same voice or data session associated with each other. Until this year, Via Rail had been using a bridged local area network which was going into an Asynchronous Transfer Mode backbone.“MPLS means we may be able to make change to a more sophisticated network (sometime in the future) more easily,” said Michael Gaudreau, Via Rail’s manager of tech support.
Via Rail had been working primarily with Bell Canada, but as a Crown corporation, it had an obligation to tender a bid to the market once its contract expired, Gaudreau said. Allstream Inc. won the business based on its ability to reduce the costs of Via’s network services, and because it is a smaller company with whom it could more easily collaborate, he added.
“You can’t really say it was because they had better technology than another guy, because in the telecom field all the same technology is available,” he said. “There is a difference definitely in cost.”
Gaudreau added the cost savings would be in the “seven figure” range.
Howard Bowles, Allstream’s vice-president of solutions, said his firm worked with Via Rail for two months to get a better sense of how the company operated. The installation of the MPLS network began around mid-April.
Allstream is providing long distance, local services, data capabilities and primary Internet access. The services are being deployed in Via Rail’s principal train stations, two call centres and administrative offices across the country. Via Rail formed a project team with Allstream to ensure the project didn’t affect the company’s existing services during peak hours.
“We would do a site at a time,” Bowles said. “When it came to a major site like Toronto or Vancouver it was all done in coordinated fashion, often after business hours.”

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