RBC goes to the bank with MPLS

Expect your money to come out much faster the next time you are withdrawing cash from a Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) automated banking machine (ABM).

Last month, RBC Financial Group contracted Winnipeg-based MTS Allstream Inc. to provide the financial institution with an IP/MPLS network to connect all of the bank’s 1,900 non-branch ABMs across Canada in such locations as gas stations, casinos and variety stores.

“The main function of the MPLS network is to improve customer response times so transactions are processed quicker,” said Bob Matthews, senior manager for telecommunications for RBC. MPLS, or Multi Protocol Label Switching, is a scheme for packet prioritization that allows the network to differentiate between multiple traffic types, such as voice and data. This function is particularly important in multiple communication networks, where latency affects the quality of voice and video traffic.

MPLS expedites the transfer of latency-sensitive communication traffic to ensure more reliable and high-quality signals. RBC will be using Allstream’s MPLS network to connect the traffic from the ABMs to the bank’s computer centre.

For the past 15 years, the ABMs were using a multi-drop leased line connection that ran at a speed of 2.4Kbps. The advantages of such a network included reliability and security, but the disadvantages were high cost and slow speed. By moving onto an MPLS network, that speed has increased to 56Kbps.

Five ABMs have already switched over to the MPLS network and Matthews expects the rest to be completed by the middle of 2007. According to Chris Long, sales vice-president for central region for Allstream, ABMs of the future might have real-time audio and video that could link customers to agents and service representatives.

“[In the future] expect to see the banking industry have the ability to roll out other applications and be able to do other functionalities on those machines [with an MPLS network],” Long said.