An "MPLS service" is the current mainstream solution for enterprise Wide Area Networking services. The marketing and sales departments at a service provider call it "MPLS service" ... an Engineer would call it "managed IP service". This could be thought of as "commercial IP service".
a) What does it do?
"MPLS service" enables IP packet communications between locations that are geographically dispersed.
b) Who uses it?
It is used by medium and large business, educational, military, government.
c) What for?
MPLS service is used as the "long-distance circuits" for Wide Area Networks. The end result is that a station connected to a local network in one location can communicate information to a station connected to a local network in another location. This could be client-server data communications in IP packets, VoIP telephone calls or anything else.
2. What are two ways MPLS service is different than Internet service?
MPLS service means IP communications with a Service Level Agreement (SLA), i.e. transmission characteristics like number of lost packets and maximum delay guaranteed. There are no guarantees with Internet service. Secondly, MPLS service ends up implementing communications between specified locations of a particular organization. Internet service allows communications to any location on the Internet.
a) What benefit does that bring to the customer?
This allows long-distance communication between specified locations with an assurance of reliability and availability, backed up with a legally-enforceable contract.
3. Does it cost more?
a) Better yet, is it costed the same way as Internet service?
No, it is not costed the same way as Internet service. Internet service is priced based on the access line speed at one end only, with perhaps simple caps on the amount of data transmitted per month. MPLS service pricing is based on the access line speed and technology (copper/wireless/fiber) at each end, plus the cost of the SLA. The SLA specifies a traffic profile (the maximum average and burst rates of traffic the user will transmit) and the transmission characteristics guaranteed if the traffic profile is respected.
4. How do you connect to MPLS service?
An end-user does not need any MPLS equipment... the "MPLS" part of the story is internal to the service provider's network and invisible to the user! At Layer 3, MPLS is a native IP service, just like Internet service. It is possible to connect to an MPLS service using a $19 edge router from Linksys. Layer 2 is usually 802 MAC frames. The physical access circuit, Layer 1, is usually fiber, which could be implemented with Gigabit Ethernet over fiber standards, or with proprietary short-haul fiber technologies like Fiber Optic Inter-Repeater Link (FOIRL).
5. What is the technology and business environment for MPLS service going to be in 2025?
All WAN services will be "MPLS" in 2015. Frame Relay and ATM will be referred to as "legacy technologies" and only rarely still in operation. The distinction between public IP network service (currently called "the Internet") and commercial, managed, quality-guaranteed multipoint IP services (currently called "MPLS service") will have begun to blur by 2015. The premium charged for MPLS service over Internet service will lower, as the de-facto transmission characteristics experienced on the Internet when using top-tier ISPs will be similar to those guaranteed with MPLS service.
MPLS is the current occupant of a space that has existed since the 1960s and will exist until the Internet is non-blocking and 99.999% reliable. This space is "commercial, guaranteed point-to-multipoint data communication services".
This discussion is included toward the end of Course 101 Telecom, Datacom and Networking for Non-Engineers, after the concepts of packets, packet switching, IP, virtual circuits and QoS are in place. The discussion takes place throughout Course 110 IP, VoIP and MPLS for the Non-Engineering Professional: at the beginning of the course when we discuss the all-IP telecom network, in the middle when we cover MPLS and again when we cover competitive services, interconnect and resale.