LAN vs. WAN: What Is the Difference?


Although LAN and WAN are two types of networks commonly applied in daily life, and there are still many people are confused about the difference between LAN and WAN. 
The Definition of WAN
WAN, the abbreviation of Wide Area Network, is a type of computer network that covers a wide geographical area and communicated area across metropolitan, countries, national boundaries, across regional and over a long distance. It uses leased telecommunication lines. WAN is often used by business and government agencies to connect to achieve strong network communication among employees, clients, supplier and buyers from various parts of the world.
Due to its wide coverage, LAN is hard to manage and organize. Moreover, the maintenance cost of WAN is also high compared with PANs, LANs, CANs, and MANs. In addition, WAN uses technologies such as SONET, Frame Relay, and ATM. It also allows different LANs to connect to other LANs via technology products such as routers, hubs, and modems. There are four main options for connecting WANs: leased line, circuit switching, packet switching, and call relay.
The Definition of LAN
LAN, the abbreviation of Local Area Network, is a type of computer network that covers a small geographic area such as home, office, a small town, any building or institute. Due to the localized nature, the data transmission rate is very high in LAN, and it can be controlled and managed by one person or small-size organization. The maintenance cost of LAN is also very low. Besides, a LAN network includes a couple of computer systems connected with each other, with one system connected to a router, modem or an outlet for internet access. The LAN network is built using inexpensive technology-products such as Ethernet cables, network adapters, and hubs. However, other wireless technologies are also available to connect the computer via wireless access.
LAN vs. WAN: What Is the Difference?
The main difference between LAN and WAN is that LAN is a type of computer network that covers a small geographic area, while WAN is a type of computer network that covers a broad geographical area such as metropolitan, countries, regional, etc. Except for this, they also differ from each other in these aspects(shown as the table):
LAN (Local Area Network)
WAN (Wide Area Network)
Application Location
a computer network covering a small geographic area, like  homes, offices, schools, or group of buildings
a computer network that covers a broad area
high speed (Up to 1000mbps)
low speed (Up to 150mbps)
using layer 2 devices like switches, bridges and layer1 devices like hubs
using the layer 3 devices, routers, and multilayer switches
Management Mode
owned, controlled, and managed by a single person or organization; easier to maintain at relatively low costs
not owned by any organization but to exist under distributed ownership; difficult to maintain because of its wider geographical coverage and higher maintenance costs
data transmission
fewer data transmission errors
more data transmission errors
By comparison, the difference between LAN and WAN are obvious. Both of them have their own advantages and disadvantages. When it is hard to make a choice between them, the answer may be clear considered from the perspective of distance. Although LAN has more benefits than WAN, you still need to choose WAN when it comes to large areas of networking.

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