Difference between LAN, MAN and WAN

When several computers are connected together and are able to communicate with one another, it is called a computer network. Computer networks are designed to share data and information among the computers of the network. Depending on the operating geographical area, computer networks are of the three major types, namely LAN, MAN, and WAN.

All the three computer networks are designed for the same purpose, i.e., for sharing information among the computers. But, they are different in many ways, which we are going to highlight in this article. Let's start with some basics of LAN, MAN, and WAN.

What is LAN?

LAN represents Local Area Network. LANs are tiny networks within a single construction or colleges of up to a few kilometers. When two or more computers are attached in a limited area, i.e., the inside diameter of not more than a few kilometers, then such a network is called a local area network. Local area network connects various computers in a small geographical area such a building so that they can share data, resources, programs, tools, etc.

LAN has very high data transmission rate because it connects a very limited number of computers in a single network. The hardware components like network adapters, hubs, network cables, etc. required to design LAN are relatively less expensive.

The most common examples of LAN include private computer networks for home, office, schools, hospitals, colleges, etc.

What is MAN?

MAN represents Metropolitan Area Network. MAN is a huge version of LAN and uses similar technology. It uses one or two cables but does not include switching components. It covers an entire city and can be associated with the local cable TV network.

A typical MAN connects two or more computing devices that reside apart but in the same or different cities. MAN convers comparatively larger geographical area as compared to a LAN. But, it is very costly as compared to a LAN. The speed of data transmission in MAN is of the order of Mbps (Mega Bytes per Second). The most common examples of MAN are networks of telephone companies that provide high speed digital subscriber line to cable TV customers.

What is WAN?

WAN represents Wide Area Network. WAN supports no limit of distance. A WAN offers long-distance communication of data, voice, pictures and video data over a large geographical area consisting of a country, a continent or even a planet.

A WAN is basically large connection of various LANs and MANs. A WAN makes use of telephone lines or radio waves to connect LANs together. A WAN uses a relatively very expensive and high-speed technology for data communication.

Based on network structure, WANs are of two types, namely Point-to-Point WAN and Switched WAN. In WANs, satellite links and public switched telephone networks are used as the communication mediums.

The rate of data transmission in a WAN is comparatively less than a LAN or MAN due to larger distances and the greater number of computing devices connected in a single network. The speed of data transmission in WANs typically ranges from a few kbps (kilo bytes per second) to Mbps (Megabytes per second). One of the major issues that WANs face is the propagation delay. The most common examples of WANs include the Internet, the network of bank cash dispensers, etc.

Difference between LAN, MAN, and WAN

The following table highlights all the key differences between LAN, MAN, and WAN −

Basis of Comparison LAN MAN WAN
Full Form LAN stands for Local Area Network. MAN stands for Metropolitan Area Network. WAN stands for Wide Area Network.
Definition It is the type of networking system in which systems are very near to each other. This system is generally in a single office, building or home. It is a type of networking system in which two or more LANs are communicated. It is located in a vast geographical area. This networking system has many connections, and these are associated with various companies or organizations at an equivalent time.
Ownership of Network LAN is under the complete control of the owner, i.e., Private. The ownership of the network can be private or public. The ownership of the network can be private or public.
Speed Data transmission speed is high. Data transmission speed is average. Data transmission speed is low.
Maintenance and Design It can be easy to design and maintain. It is tough to maintain. It is tough to maintain.
Operational Speed Its operational speed usually is 10,100 and 1000 Mbps. Its operational speed usually is 1.5 Mbps, and it may be very at the wireless network. Its operation is speed usually is 100 Mbps.
Fault Tolerance There is higher fault tolerance in LAN. There is smaller fault tolerance. There is smaller fault tolerance.
Communication Allotment LAN allows a small number of computers to establish a communication. MAN allows simultaneous communication of a large number of computers. WAN allows a very large number of computers to interact simultaneously with each other
Congestion In LANs, the network congestion is very low due to less number of computers In MANs, the network congestion is high. In WANs, the network is very high.
Propagation Delay In LANs, the propagation delay is very less. In MANs, the propagation delay is moderate. In WANs, the propagation delay is very high.
Examples Computer networks of schools, homes, offices, hospitals, etc. are the common examples of LANs. Computer networks that spread over a small city, or town are the examples of MANs. Computer networks that cover an entire city, or globe like internet are the examples WANs.


All these types of computer networks are widely used to connect the computers and other computing devices together to share the data and information.