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BT signs network deal with drug maker

The telecom company's services group plans to manage AstraZeneca's global IP network using multiprotocol label switching.

BT Global Services on Monday said it has signed a deal with AstraZeneca to manage its communications network based on a technology known as multiprotocol label switching.

The telecommunications company will deploy the MPLS technology to create a virtual private network (VPN) connecting 82 locations of the drug company worldwide. According to the agreement, BT will operate the network and also handle supervision, maintenance and help desk duties.

The contract is worth $36.8 million. BT said the introduction of the technology would help AstraZeneca reduce costs and let it begin offering new applications across its enterprise.

MPLS is a way of carrying voice, data and video over the same network. Although it has been around for years, MPLS is just now catching on in the communications industry, with service providers trying to lure businesses to the concept. Recently, for instance, Sprint announced a VPN service using the technology. Verizon Communications has said that much of its 2004 capital budget will be spent on MPLS-enabled equipment rather than traditional circuit-switched telecommunications gear.


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In the past, carriers have used an Internet Protocol (IP) network for data and a separate circuit-switched network for voice, but that distinction is slowly going away as the demand for "converged" network applications is growing. MPLS overcomes problems linked to shifting applications running on circuit-switched networks to IP-based networks. Since MPLS can handle any type of traffic, carriers can use it to converge traffic from all of their networks onto a single network, saving money in operational costs.

"This is one of the largest corporate IP-based backbone networks in the pharmaceutical industry," Jean-Yves Charlier, chief of operations at BT Global Services, said in a statement.