Study: MPLS Usage Drops 24%, SD-WAN to Blame

Is SD-WAN replacing MPLS? This research firm think so.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

March 29, 2021

3 Min Read
network mesh

Use of MPLS declined 24% from 2018 to 2020, and SD-WAN migration played a key role in the decrease, according to a research firm.

TeleGeography on Monday shared the results of its annual WAN Manager Survey. The telecommunications market research firm spoke to WAN managers from 125 companies, whose businesses earned a median revenue of $10 billion.

According to TeleGeography, the average enterprise network ran MPLS at 82% of sites in 2018. However, the number dropped to 58% last year.

The report authors put forward SD-WAN migration as an explanation for the decrease in MPLS over the last three years. TeleGeography concluded that while only 18% of enterprises had installed SD-WAN in 2018, that number ticked up to 43% in 2020.

Despite acknowledging the growth of SD-WAN, TeleGeography agreed with other reports that indicated a slowdown of SD-WAN deployments in 2020. You can blame COVID-19 for that.


TeleGeography’s Greg Bryan

“SD-WAN has dramatically increased in adoption in the last couple of years. The pandemic slowed down rollouts for a time, but increased interest in adoption,” said Greg Bryan, TeleGeography’s senior manager, enterprise research. “SD-WAN frees WAN managers to select a broad mix of underlay technologies, and can also boost performance.”

Respondents indicated that they are turning to SD-WAN in order to increase their site capacity and use new access solutions. For example, enterprises have turned to dedicated internet access (DIA) as their main underlay product. More than one quarter of dedicated internet access site ran faster than 100 Mbps, according to TeleGeography.

Forty percent of respondents said they preferred to consume SD-WAN in a co-managed fashion.


WAN managers reported concerns around remote work. Remote workers comprise the majority of the workforce for 85% of enterprise respondents. As a result, WAN managers worry about congested internet gateways and limited home broadband performance.


TeleGeography’s Elizabeth Thorne

“The pandemic caused enterprises across the globe to really re-evaluate their operations and seek new ways to improve performance and efficiency. It’ll be interesting to see the lasting effects of the pandemic in terms of accelerating digital transformation and changing networking models globally,” said Elizabeth Thorne, research analyst for enterprise networks at TeleGeography.

Another Explanation

Avant Communications’ recent State of Disruption study found that MPLS demand is actually growing. Moreover, Avant found that many customers don’t view SD-WAN and MPLS as mutually exclusive technologies.


Avant’s Ken Presti

Ken Presti, Avant’s vice president of research and analytics, said in a recent SD-WAN report that MPLS and SD-WAN deployments are growing in different parts of the network.

“A lot of these companies, especially in the large enterprise, had already made significant investments in MPLs and were continuing to make investments in what they had already purchased at the core of the network. Meanwhile, SD-WAN is making continued in-roads closer to the edge of the network and working its way in,” Presti said.

To read one of our spicier discussions around MPLS and SD-WAN, checkout the SD-WAN column we published three years ago, in which a channel partner railed against MPLS.

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like