Difference Between WAN and LAN

LANs prioritize speed and security within confined spaces. This means LANs are designed to connect devices like computers quickly and securely when they are in a small physical area. While WANs focus on connecting geographically spread devices over long distances in cities or countries. WANs use public infrastructure like telephone lines, satellites, and cellular networks to achieve these connections.

image showing difference between LAN and WAN

WAN vs LAN-Key Difference

ParameterLocal Area Network (LAN)Wide Area Network (WAN)
Geographical reachConnects devices within a limited area (building, campus)Travels large geographical distances (cities, countries, continents)
Maximum distance coveredUp to 1km (typical)Virtually unlimited
Transmission speedVaries (56 Kbps – 10 Gbps)Varies greatly depending on technology (kbps – 100 Gbps+)
Typical latencyLow (5-10 milliseconds)Higher than LANs, changes based on technology and distance
Physical media usedEthernet cables, fiber optics, Wi-FiFiber optics, satellite links, cellular networks, public switched networks, microwave radio relays, undersea cables
CostLower setup and operating costsHigher costs due to larger area coverage
ComplexitySimple and uniform structureMore complex due to diverse technologies and protocols
ReliabilityHigh reliability with private controlVaries depending on carrier, technology, and service agreements
SecurityTight control over security policiesSecurity depends on various factors like encryption, access controls, and management practices
Primary purposeResource and information sharing within an organizationData and application transfer across geographical distances
OwnershipTypically privately owned and operateduse leased lines or public carrier services
Example technologiesEthernet, Wi-Fi, Token Ring, FDDI, IEEE 802.11 standardsPPP, ATM, SONET, SDH, 10 Gigabit Ethernet WAN PHY, DWDM, MPLS, BGP, SDN, NFV
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