Difference between LAN and WAN

A WAN in general is a network of local area networks (LANs) that link to other LANs via telephone lines and radio waves. WAN connections can include both wired and wireless technologies. Wired WAN services include carrier Ethernet, commercial broadband Internet links, etc., whereas wireless WAN technologies include cellular data networks like 4G LTE, public Wi-Fi, satellite networks.

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 is quite straightforward.

Go through this article to find out more about LAN and WAN and how they are different from each other.

What is a LAN?

A Local Area Network (LAN) is a private network that connects computers and devices within a limited area like an office, a building or a campus. On a small scale, LANs are used to connect personal computers to printers. However, LANs can also extend to a few kilometers when used by companies, where a large number of computers share a variety of resources like hardware (e.g. printers, scanners, audiovisual devices, etc.), software (e.g. application programs), and data.

In a LAN, a switch or stack of switches connects a group of computers and devices using the TCP/IP protocol's private addressing mechanism.

Routers are used to connect the LAN's edge to the wider WAN.

Data transmission in a LAN is fast 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).

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 were limited in a range of 4 to 16 Mbps; however, now the speeds have improved significantly (100 to 1000 megabits per second).

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.

In a LAN, the propagation delay is relatively short. Larger LANs can accommodate thousands of computers, whereas smaller LANs may only employ two computers.

What is a WAN?

A WAN (Wide Area Network) is a computer network that connects multiple locations across a large geographic area, albeit it may be limited to the boundaries of a state or country. It can be restricted to a single firm (a corporation or organization) or open to the public. The technology is both high-speed and low-cost.

  • Switched WAN and Point-to-Point WAN are the two forms of WAN. A switched WAN is an asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) network, whereas a point-to-point WAN is a dial-up connection linking a home computer to the Internet.

  • Designing and maintaining a WAN is tough. A WAN's fault tolerance is lower than a MAN's, and the network is more congested.

  • PSTN or Satellite Link is a WAN communication medium.

  • Noise and inaccuracy seem to be more prevalent in WANs due to long-distance transmission.

  • Because of the increased distance and number of servers and terminals, the data rate of a WAN is about a tenth of that of a LAN. WAN speeds range from a few kilobits per second (Kbps) to several megabits per second (Mbps) (Mbps).

One of the most severe issues here is propagation latency. Optic lines, microwaves, and satellites are the devices utilized for data transmission over the WAN.

Difference between LAN and WAN

The following table highlights the major differences between a LAN and a WAN.

LAN stands for Local Area Network. It is a network that connects a group of computers across a short distance.
WAN stands for Wide Area Network. It connects countries and spans a broad geographic area. As an example, consider the Internet.
LANs are often owned by private organizations.
WAN ownership can be private or public.
The speed of data transmission is quite high across the devices connected in a LAN. It is due to the fact that there are limited number of devices connected in a LAN.
Data speed in a WAN is slower than that of a LAN.
In a LAN, the propagation latency is minimal..
A WAN, on the other hand, has a long propagation latency.
LAN has low congestion as compared to WAN.
WAN has higher congestion than LAN.
Fault Tolerance
The Fault Tolerance of a LAN is higher than a WAN.
Fault Tolerance of a WAN is lower than a LAN.
Designing and maintaining a LAN is easy and less costly than a WAN.
Designing and maintaining a WAN is complex and more costly.


LANs are simple networks that are used to connect computers and devices within a small area like an office, a building, or a campus. A Wide Area Network (WAN) is a much larger network than a LAN or a MAN. It is quite expensive to maintain a WAN; hence a single organization may not own it. Satellite is used to manage a WAN.