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Types of area networks – LAN, MAN and WAN

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The Network allows computers to connect and communicate with different computers via any medium. LAN, MAN, and WAN are the three major types of networks designed to operate over the area they cover. There are some similarities and dissimilarities between them. One of the major differences is the geographical area they cover, i.e. LAN covers the smallest area, MAN covers an area larger than LAN and WAN comprises the largest of all. 
There are other types of Computer Networks also, like : 

  • PAN (Personal Area Network)
  • SAN (Storage Area Network)
  • EPN (Enterprise Private Network)
  • VPN (Virtual Private Network)

Personal Area Network (PAN)-

PAN is a personal area network having an interconnection of personal technology devices to communicate over a short distance. It covers only less than 10 meters or 33 feet of area. PAN has fewer users as compared to other networks such as LAN, WAN, etc. PAN typically uses some form of wireless technology. PAN involves the transmission of data between information devices such as smartphones, personal computers, tablet computers, etc.


  • Allows for easy communication between personal devices in close proximity.
  • Can be set up easily and quickly.
  • Uses wireless technology, which eliminates the need for wires and cables.
  • PANs are designed to be energy efficient, which means that devices can communicate with each other without draining their batteries quickly.
  • PANs are typically secured using encryption and authentication protocols, which helps to prevent unauthorized access to data and resources.


  • Limited coverage area.
  • May not be suitable for large-scale data transfer or communication.PANs typically have limited bandwidth, which means that they may not be able to handle large amounts of data or high-speed communication.
  • May experience interference from other wireless devices.

Local Area Network (LAN) –

LAN or Local Area Network connects network devices in such a way that personal computers and workstations can share data, tools, and programs. The group of computers and devices are connected together by a switch, or stack of switches, using a private addressing scheme as defined by the TCP/IP protocol. Private addresses are unique in relation to other computers on the local network. Routers are found at the boundary of a LAN, connecting them to the larger WAN.

Data transmits at a very fast rate as the number of computers linked is limited. By definition, the connections must be high-speed and relatively inexpensive hardware (Such as hubs, network adapters, and Ethernet cables). LANs cover a smaller geographical area (Size is limited to a few kilometres) and are privately owned. One can use it for an office building, home, hospital, school, etc. LAN is easy to design and maintain. A Communication medium used for LAN has twisted-pair cables and coaxial cables. It covers a short distance, and so the error and noise are minimized.

Early LANs had data rates in the 4 to 16 Mbps range. Today, speeds are normally 100 or 1000 Mbps. Propagation delay is very short in a LAN. The smallest LAN may only use two computers, while larger LANs can accommodate thousands of computers. LAN has a range up to 2km. A LAN typically relies mostly on wired connections for increased speed and security, but wireless connections can also be part of a LAN. The fault tolerance of a LAN is more and there is less congestion in this network. For example A bunch of students playing Counter-Strike in the same room (without internet).


  • Provides fast data transfer rates and high-speed communication.
  • Easy to set up and manage.
  • Can be used to share peripheral devices such as printers and scanners.
  • Provides increased security and fault tolerance compared to WANs.


  • Limited geographical coverage.
  • Limited scalability and may require significant infrastructure upgrades to accommodate growth.
  • May experience congestion and network performance issues with increased usage.

Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) –

MAN or Metropolitan area Network covers a larger area than that covered by a LAN and a smaller area as compared to WAN. MAN has a range of 5-50km. It connects two or more computers that are apart but reside in the same or different cities. It covers a large geographical area and may serve as an ISP (Internet Service Provider). MAN is designed for customers who need high-speed connectivity. Speeds of MAN range in terms of Mbps. It’s hard to design and maintain a Metropolitan Area Network.

The fault tolerance of a MAN is less and also there is more congestion in the network. It is costly and may or may not be owned by a single organization. The data transfer rate and the propagation delay of MAN are moderate. Devices used for transmission of data through MAN are Modem and Wire/Cable. Examples of a MAN are part of the telephone company network that can provide a high-speed DSL line to the customer or the cable TV network in a city.


  • Provides high-speed connectivity over a larger geographical area than LAN.
  • Can be used as an ISP for multiple customers.
  • Offers higher data transfer rates than WAN in some cases.


  • Can be expensive to set up and maintain.
  • May experience congestion and network performance issues with increased usage.
  • May have limited fault tolerance and security compared to LANs.

Wide Area Network (WAN) –

WAN or Wide Area Network is a computer network that extends over a large geographical area, although it might be confined within the bounds of a state or country. WAN has a range of above 50 km. A WAN could be a connection of LAN connecting to other LANs via telephone lines and radio waves and may be limited to an enterprise (a corporation or an organization) or accessible to the public. The technology is high-speed and relatively expensive.

There are two types of WAN: Switched WAN and Point-to-Point WAN. WAN is difficult to design and maintain. Similar to a MAN, the fault tolerance of a WAN is less and there is more congestion in the network. A Communication medium used for WAN is PSTN or Satellite Link. Due to long-distance transmission, the noise and error tend to be more in WAN.

WAN’s data rate is slow about a 10th LAN’s speed since it involves increased distance and increased number of servers and terminals etc. The speed of WAN ranges from a few kilobits per second (Kbps) to megabits per second (Mbps). Propagation delay is one of the biggest problems faced here. Devices used for the transmission of data through WAN are Optic wires, Microwaves, and Satellites. An example of a Switched WAN is the asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) network and Point-to-Point WAN is a dial-up line that connects a home computer to the Internet.


  • Covers large geographical areas and can connect remote locations.
  • Provides connectivity to the internet.
  • Offers remote access to resources and applications.
  • Can be used to support multiple users and applications simultaneously.


  • Can be expensive to set up and maintain.
  • Offers slower data transfer rates than LAN or MAN.
  • May experience higher latency and longer propagation delays due to longer distances and multiple network hops.
  • May have lower fault tolerance and security compared to LANs.

Conclusion –

There are many advantages of LAN over MAN and WAN, such as LAN provide excellent reliability, a high data transmission rate, and can easily be managed and shares peripheral devices too. Local Area Network cannot cover cities or towns and for that Metropolitan Area Network is needed, which can connect a city or a group of cities together. Further, for connecting a Country or a group of Countries one requires a Wide Area Network.

Last Updated : 14 Mar, 2023
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