LAN vs MAN vs WAN: What’s the Difference?

Updated on Jan 15, 2020 by

The most common types of networks include Local Area Network (LAN), Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) and Wide Area Network (WAN). They confine the scope that the message can travel, the speed, and other kinds of parameters involved in the communication among devices. This article will introduce three typical network types as well as their differences.

What Is LAN?

LAN, short for Local Area Network, is a computer network covering a small geographic area with the range of 1-5 km, like the home, office, school, or a group of buildings where there are computers, servers and peripheral devices like printers, scanners, projectors and other storage components. Very often the connections between servers are carried out by Ethernet cables, and end-devices communicate with each other through wireless connection, that is, Wi-Fi. Some of the most common LAN protocols are Ethernet, Token Ring and Fiber Distributed Data Interface, or FDDI, while most of the wireless protocols in use today are 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11n.

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What Is MAN?

MAN (Metropolitan Area Network), as the name suggests, is often used in cities and other locations covering a range of 50-60 km. MANs are high-speed connection networks that interconnect several local area networks into a single large network with a common bridge. That bridge is called backbone lines which usually established by optical fiber to boost data transfer speed. Simply put, the MAN can be considered as a group of one or more LAN networks connected together through a single cable. RS-232, X-25, Frame Relay, and ATM are the common protocol practice for communication in MAN.

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What Is WAN?

WAN (Wide Area Network) is a computer network that covers a large-scale geographical area with the diameter of roughly 100-1000 km, that is, any network whose communications link cross metropolitan, regional, or national boundaries. Devices involved are more diversified than those applied to the other types, ranging from routers to switches, firewalls modems and so on. Companies such as FS or other worldwide organizations utilize WAN connection between their various branches by communicating via microwave satellites. Some of the most common WAN protocols in use today are Frame Relay, X-25, Integrated Services Digital Network, or ISDN, and Point-to-Point Protocol, or PPP.

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LAN vs MAN vs WAN: How Do They Differ From Each Other?

With the essence of realizing communication remains the same, the three network types can differ from each other in many aspects. Some of the significant differences are listed in the chart below.

Ownership of networkPrivatePrivate or publicPrivate or public
Geographical area coveredSmallModerateVery large
Design and maintenanceEasyDifficultDifficult
Data ratesHighModerateLow
ApplicationCollege, School, HospitalSmall towns, CityCountry, Continent

The geographical scope

LANs cover the smallest distance, followed by MAN and then the WAN. As the LAN contains the smallest amount of network nodes, so it is much easier to design and maintain LAN than MAN and WAN.

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The application

An enterprise may set up a LAN to deny the illegal users for maintaining the business security. And the best-known example of a MAN is cable TV network available in many cities. The MAN network is adopted by various government bodies or private firms for inter-connectivity between their department’s offices situated at different locations or districts. The WAN networks are used for military services, railways reservation and airlines with satellite mode of transmission, as these operations require highly secured network for communication.

The media for data transmission

LAN usually employs WiFi and Ethernet cables to carry out communication at the data rates about 100 or 1000Mbps. MAN adopts modem and wire/cable with the transmission of 100Mbps. Moreover, the communication between different users of WAN is established using leased telephone lines or satellite links, optic wires, and microwaves. WAN are usually much lower than the other types of area network as for the data rates.


In this article, the features of LAN, MAN, and WAN computer networking system and their differences are displayed. All three types of networking systems have their own significance in different fields. To figure out what are LAN vs MAN vs WAN, and how they differ from each other, one can effectively apply them to where they suit.

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