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

Posted on Aug 21, 2023 by

The latest findings from the IoT Analytics report anticipate a substantial surge in global IoT device connections, projected to reach hundreds of billions by 2023. This forecast highlights an unparalleled level of global interconnectivity. Long-haul and metro optical transport networks stand as fundamental pillars in materializing the Internet of Everything vision, enabling stable, high-speed data transmission essential for both organizations and individuals. While both networks constitute vital elements of our digital infrastructure, they cater to distinct geographical areas and purposes. Long-haul networks serve to bridge distant locales, such as countries, while metro networks are tailored to meet the needs of urban environments. This article delves into the distinctive features, benefits, and practical applications of each network type, shedding light on their inherent disparities.

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 long haul 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.

The following are the advantages of long-haul network:

  • Broad Coverage: Long-haul networks boast wide geographical reach, seamlessly linking to networks worldwide.

  • High-Speed Transmission: Leveraging long haul fiber optic cable networks allows for high-speed data transmission, ensuring rapid response times, even across vast oceans.

  • High Reliability: Long-haul networks are typically equipped with redundant designs, ensuring uninterrupted operation in the event of component failures, thus maintaining overall network functionality.

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).

The following are the advantages of metro networks:

  • Partial Coverage: The metro network focuses on serving a city or region, allowing for detailed management of local network needs.

  • Low Latency: Metro networks generally exhibit lower latency compared to long-haul networks, attributable to their smaller geographic scope.

  • Reduced Maintenance Costs: With their more limited coverage area, metro networks incur lower maintenance expenses.

Global Network HierarchyFigure 1 :Global Network Hierarchy

Long-Haul vs. Metro Networks Differences

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 optical 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, spanning vast distances, boast higher capacities compared to metro networks, facilitating the management of large data volumes over extensive geographical regions. Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) technology significantly contributes to the enhanced capacity of long-haul networks by enabling the transmission of multiple wavelengths of light over a single optical fiber. By utilizing DWDM, long-haul networks can concurrently transmit multiple data streams over the same fiber, each utilizing a distinct wavelength of light. This technological advancement has empowered long-haul networks to achieve remarkable capacities, with some networks capable of transmitting terabits of data per second over a single fiber.

Furthermore, employing long-reach transceivers extends the reach of long-haul networks without the need for additional amplification, thereby further enhancing their capacity and efficiency. This increased capacity enables long-haul networks to support a diverse array of applications, including high-definition video streaming, cloud computing, and real-time data analytics. Moreover, it diminishes the necessity for supplementary physical infrastructure, rendering long-haul networks cost-effective and operationally efficient solutions for fulfilling high-demand data transmission requirements.


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.

Here are some key differences between long-haul networks and metro networks in terms of geographic coverage, transmission distance, network capacity, and latency:

   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


Figure 2 :Key Differences Between Long-Haul and Metro Networks

FS 400G Coherent Optical Module Solution for Metro Optical Transmission

To address the continuous growth in data transmission demands, upgrading the existing Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) infrastructure to 400G bandwidth presents a series of challenges and risks. FS's 400G coherent optical module solution is designed to tackle these challenges. Our solution excels not only in complex environmental conditions but also offers high transmission margins and compatibility assurances. Additionally, our solution seamlessly integrates with leading equipment brands such as Cisco and Juniper, ensuring efficient and cost-effective upgrades from 100G to 400G. With support for different modulation modes (e.g., QPSK, 8QAM, 16QAM) and multiple service types such as OTUCn, OTU4, and Ethernet, our solution meets diverse business requirements while maximizing the utilization of optical fiber resources and enhancing network reliability and flexibility.


In summary, both long-haul and metro networks are essential for managing the growing volume of global network traffic. Long-haul networks excel at transmitting data over long distances, while metro networks are optimized for connecting locations within metropolitan areas. Different industries have different network needs, and as a global networking innovator, FS offers tailored solutions with both short-reach and long-reach transceivers. Whether you’re upgrading existing infrastructure or building a new network, FS.com provides all the tools you need for success. Contact us today for a solution that meets your specific requirements!

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