Long-Haul vs. Metro Networks: What Are the Differences?

Posted on Aug 21, 2023 by

According to the latest IoT Analytics report, the global number of connected IoT devices is expected to grow to 16.7 billion active endpoints in 2023. The world has become unprecedentedly connected. Organizations, businesses, and individuals rely on stable and high-speed data transmission. Long-haul and metro optical transport networks are central to this Internet of Everything vision. The definition of networks is a work in progress and therefore may cause some confusion or ambiguity. Here’s a deeper look at the differences between long-haul and metro networks.

Long-Haul Networks

Long-haul networks are the core of the global network, providing high-bandwidth connectivity over long distances, typically spanning countries or even continents. Long-haul networks are designed to transmit data quickly and reliably using high-capacity fiber optic cables, long-haul transceivers, and advanced networking technologies.

Companies such as AT&T, Verizon, and China Telecom Global are some of the long-haul network providers that offer these services. By utilizing long-haul networks, businesses and individuals can transmit large volumes of data over vast distances, which is essential in today's increasingly interconnected digital world. Dominated by a small group of large transnational and global carriers, long-haul networks connect the metro networks.

Metro Networks

Metro networks, also known as metropolitan area networks or MANs, are designed to provide high-speed connectivity within a specific geographic area, typically a metropolitan area or a city. Metro Networks is related to the inter-connection of multiple Points of Presence (POPs) within the same region. These networks use a combination of fiber optic cables, copper cables, short-reach transceivers, and wireless technologies to provide fast and reliable data transmission over relatively shorter distances.

Some examples of metro network providers include CenturyLink, Windstream, Zayo, etc. These networks are critical for businesses, organizations, and residential users to stay connected within the local area. Metro networks can be single networks, such as wired Internet connections for TV, or large-scale networks formed by connecting multiple Local Area Networks (LANs).

Global Network Hierarchy


Geographic Coverage & Transmission Distance

As the name implies, long-haul networks cover a larger geographic area than metro networks, often spanning entire regions or countries. In contrast, metro networks cover a smaller geographic area, typically a city or town. Long-haul networks are designed to transmit data over long distances, typically from 1000 km to more than 2500 km. In contrast, metro networks transmit data over relatively shorter distances, typically covering ranges from 80km to 1000km. FS offers optical transmission solutions geared for metro and even long-haul network needs, like 100G metro networks. It's worth noticing that different countries or regions have different definitions of transmission distances, which require situation-specific analysis. In this regard, FS provides sample testing and matching solutions.

Network Capacity

In optical communication, network capacity refers to the maximum amount of data transmitted in a given time. Long-haul networks have a higher capacity than metro networks, which allows them to handle large volumes of data traffic over long distances. Metro networks, while still capable of handling high volumes of data traffic, have a lower capacity than long-haul networks.

Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) technology is a key factor in the high capacity of long-haul networks. DWDM allows multiple wavelengths of light to be transmitted over a single optical fiber. Long-haul networks use DWDM to transmit multiple data streams simultaneously over the same fiber, each using a different wavelength of light. This has enabled long-haul networks to achieve very high capacity, with some networks capable of transmitting terabits of data per second over a single fiber.

Using long-reach transceivers can increase the reach of the long-haul networks without additional amplification. When combined with DWDM technology, long-haul transceivers can further increase the capacity and efficiency of long-haul networks.

This high capacity enables long-haul networks to support various applications, such as high-definition video streaming, cloud computing, and real-time data analytics, while reducing the need for additional physical infrastructure, making them cost-effective and efficient.

DWDM Long Haul Transmission Network Solution


Latency is the delay or lag that occurs when data is transmitted over a network. Both long-haul and metro networks have low latency compared to older network technologies. Long-haul networks have higher latency than metro networks due to the longer distances involved. Although the speed of light in a vacuum is constant, it slows down as it travels through an optical fiber, which can increase latency over long distances.

   Long-Haul Networks  Metro Networks
 Geographic Coverage  Countries or even continents  Local area, a town or city
 Transmission Distance  1000km-2500km  80km-1000km
 Network Capacity  Higher capacity  Lower capacity
 Latency  Higher latency
Lower latency


In summary, both long-haul and metro networks are critical global networks designed to accommodate the increasing volume of network traffic. Long-haul networks are ideal for transmitting data over long distances, while metro networks are designed for connecting locations within a metropolitan area. No matter your industry, you can significantly benefit from investigating the differences between long-haul and metro networks.

Different industries require different features in their network solutions. As a global networking innovator, FS offers professional network solutions and suitable products, including short-reach and long-reach transceivers. Whether to upgrade your network infrastructure or build a new network from scratch, FS.com has all you need to succeed. Contact us today to get the right solution that fits your specific needs!

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