Difference between Ethernet and LAN

A LAN is a computer network that is limited to a particular geographic area. Ethernet, the other hand, is a LAN network standard used in wired LAN. Go through this article to find out more about the features of Ethernet and LAN and how they are different from each other.

What is Ethernet?

Ethernet is a widely used LAN standard. Ethernet refers to networking technologies and systems used in local area networks (LANs) to connect computers inside a single physical space. It is defined under IEEE 802.3 standards. It is very easy to understand, implement, maintain and is a low-cost implementation. It generally uses Bus Topology but other topologies can also be used. It is part of the Physical and Data Layer of the OSI model.

Ethernet communication systems divide data streams into packets, which are referred to as frames. Frames contain information on the source and destination addresses and systems for detecting data mistakes and retransmission requests.

Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) is a technology used in Ethernet frame transmissions, with Gb denoting the data transmission rate in billions of bits per second. GbE data is sent in bundled units, ensuring that most of the data is delivered even if one frame or packet has a destination delay. As a result, although transmitting and receiving computers deal with modest data delays, not all data is held back.

Ethernet is a set of technologies and protocols that are used primarily in LANs. It was first standardized in 1980s by IEEE 802.3 standard. IEEE 802.3 defines the physical layer and the medium access control (MAC) sub-layer of the data link layer for wired Ethernet networks. Ethernet is classified into two categories: classic Ethernet and switched Ethernet.

  • Classic Ethernet is the original form of Ethernet that provides data rates between 3 to 10 Mbps. The varieties are commonly referred as 10BASE-X. Here, 10 is the maximum throughput, i.e. 10 Mbps, BASE denoted use of baseband transmission, and X is the type of medium used. Most varieties of classic Ethernet have become obsolete in present communication scenario.

  • A Switched Ethernet uses switches to connect to the stations in the LAN. It replaces the repeaters used in classic Ethernet and allows full bandwidth utilization.

IEEE 802.3 Popular Versions

There are a number of versions of IEEE 802.3 protocol. The most popular ones are −

  • IEEE 802.3 − This was the original standard given for 10BASE-5. It used a thick single coaxial cable into which a connection can be tapped by drilling into the cable to the core. Here, 10 is the maximum throughput, i.e., 10 Mbps, BASE denoted use of baseband transmission, and 5 refers to the maximum segment length of 500m.

  • IEEE 802.3a − This gave the standard for thin coax (10BASE-2), which is a thinner variety where the segments of coaxial cables are connected by BNC connectors. The 2 refers to the maximum segment length of about 200m (185m to be precise).

  • IEEE 802.3i − This gave the standard for twisted pair (10BASET) that uses unshielded twisted pair (UTP) copper wires as physical layer medium. The further variations were given by IEEE 802.3u for 100BASE-TX, 100BASE-T4 and 100BASE-FX.

  • IEEE 802.3i − This gave the standard for Ethernet over Fiber (10BASE-F) that uses fiber optic cables as medium of transmission.

What is LAN?

A Local Area Network (LAN) is a computer network limited to a particular geographic area. A switch, or stack of switches, connects a group of computers and devices using the TCP/IP protocol's private addressing mechanism.

Private addresses are distinct from those of other machines on the local network. Routers are used to connect the LAN's edge to the wider WAN.

Data is transmitted at a high-speed rate because the number of computers linked is limited. The connections must, by definition, be high-speed, and hardware must be reasonably inexpensive (Such as hubs, network adapters, and Ethernet cables).

LANs are privately owned and span a smaller geographical area (restricted to a few kilometers). It can be used in various settings, including offices, residences, hospitals, and schools. The setup and management of a LAN are straightforward.

Twisted pair and coaxial cables are utilized as a LAN communication medium. Because it only traverses a limited distance, the inaccuracy and noise are kept to a minimum.

Data speeds on early LANs ranged from 4 to 16 Mbps. Today's rates are often 100 or 1000 megabits per second. In a LAN, the propagation delay is relatively short. Larger LANs can accommodate thousands of computers, whereas smaller LANs may only employ two computers.

A LAN usually uses wired connections; however, wireless connectivity can also be used. A LAN's fault tolerance is higher, and the network is less congested.

Comparison between Ethernet and LAN

The following table highlights some of the important differences between Ethernet and LAN.

DefinitionEthernet represents Prevalent Packet Switched LAN.LAN stands for Local Area Network.
TopologyEthernet uses bus and star topology.LAN uses bus, star and ring topology.
ControlEthernet control is decentralized.LAN control is centralized.
Transmission MediaGuided Transmission media is used in Ethernet.Both guided and non-guided transmission media are used in LAN.
ReliabilityEthernet reliability is low.LAN reliability is high.
TransmissionLimitations appear in Ethernet during transmission.No limitation problem in LAN during transmission.


In this article, we highlighted the major differences between LAN and Ethernet. A LAN is a computer network that is limited to a particular geographic area, whereas Ethernet is a widely used LAN standard that is widely used to connect computers inside a single physical space.

Updated on: 27-Jul-2022

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