WAN - Wide Area Network

WAN – Wide Area Network

Posted on by FS.COM

Related Terms


Wide-Area Network (WAN), also called long haul network, is a network that covers a broad area using leased telecommunication lines. WAN includes any telecommunications network which links across metropolitan, regional, national or international boundaries. In general, a WAN connects different smaller networks, such as local area networks (LAN) and metropolitan area networks (MAN). This ensures that computers and users in one location can communicate with the other locations. WAN implementation can be done either with the help of the public transmission system or a private network. Compared to the small area network, like LAN or MAN, WAN is applied more in business and government. They use WANs to transmit data among their staffs, clients or even the suppliers from different geographical location. Actually, this type of telecommunication helps them solving the location limitation of communication.

WAN Features

In general, the data transfer rate of WAN is higher than LAN while the signal propagation delay of WAN is much larger than LAN. The typical rate of a WAN is usually from 56kbps to 155Mbps. And with the increasing development of technology, there are also 622Mbps, 2.4 Gbps and even higher-speed WANs. The signal propagation delay can be from a few milliseconds to hundreds of milliseconds (when using the satellite channel). Main features of WANs is as the following:

  • Adapt to the requirements of large-capacity and emergency communications
  • Meet the requirements of integrated service
  • Having open device interfaces and standardized protocols
  • Perfect communications services and network management

WAN Connectivity Options
  • Leased line – Point-to-Point connection between two computers or LANs
  • Circuit switching – A dedicated circuit path is created between end points (eg. dialup connections)
  • Packet switching (Connection oriented) – Devices transport packets via a shared single point-to-point or point-to-multipoint link across a carrier internetwork. Before information can be exchanged between two endpoints, they first establish a Virtual Circuit. Variable length packets are transmitted over Permanent Virtual Circuits (PVC) or Switched Virtual Circuits (SVC).
  • Packet switching (Connectionless) – Devices transport packets via a shared single point-to-point or point-to-multipoint link across a carrier internetwork. Variable length packets are transmitted. Between endpoints no connection is build; endpoints can just offer packets to the network, addressed to any other endpoint and the network will try to deliver the packet (eg. Internet).
  • Cell relay – Similar to packet switching, but uses fixed length cells instead of variable length packets. Data is divided into fixed-length cells and then transported across virtual circuits.
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