LAN Vs. MAN Vs. WAN: What’s The Difference?

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WAN stands for Wide Area Network, LAN stands for Local Area Network and MAN stands for Metropolitan Area Network. All the three technologies are mainly used for data communication. They cover a distance of between 100 to 1000 meters. Below is detailed overview that differentiates the three technologies from each other.

 Local Area Network (LAN)

LAN is an interconnection of network devices within a small geographical area in such a way that personal computers and workstations can share data, tools and programs. LAN is restricted to small area such as office, home or college.  Latest advancements in the LAN technology support data rates which range from 10Mbps, 100Mbps up to 1 Gbps. 

Usually, this group of network devices and computers are connected by a switch or stack of switches, using a private addressing scheme as defined by the TCP/IP protocol. 10 to 100 users can easily share their data with each other at same time without any difficulty or interruption.

LAN has been developed to allow sharing of common resource such as printer, hard disk and modem to more than one Personal computer. In this case, the personal computer connected with the common resource is referred to as controller through which all the users will access the resource.

Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)

LAN is a data network designed to combine local networks designed to combine local networks usually confined within the city limits. It covers a geographical area larger than LAN but smaller than WAN. The coverage of MAN can go up to 100 kilometers and they don’t belong to any particular organization.

MANs are high speed connections that interconnect several local area networks into a single large network with a common bridge referred to as backbone lines. Devices used for transmission of data through MAN are modem and wire/cable.  It supports both data and voice transmission. The main disadvantage of MAN technology is that is relatively expensive and it can be difficult to protect the network from hackers.

An example of MAN is part of the telephone company network that provides a high-speed DSL line to customers. Another common example of MAN is the TV cable system which is locally installed at house level. In this system, the cable company receives the TV channel from satellite and then sends it to individual house through coaxial cable.

Wide Area Network (WAN)

WAN is a broad network of interconnected devices within a large geographical area such as across states, cities or continents.  In other words, WAN provides a long distance transmission of data, voice, image, video information over a large geographical area (beyond 100km).

WAN uses high-speed communication links like satellite communications, telephone lines, leased lines and microwave links. Most of the WANs use leased lines for internet access as they provide faster data transfer.  Devices used for transmission of data through WAN are optic wires, microwaves and satellites. Internet is the best example of WAN, since it connects computers from different corners of the world.  

There are two types of WAN that is Switched WAN and Point-to-point WAN.  Example of point-to-point WAN is dial-up line that connects a home computer to the internet whereas an example of Switched WAN is the asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) network.

A WAN can contain multiple smaller networks such as LANs or MANs. There are also various technologies in existence to support WAN; the technologies include WiMAX, GSM, CDMA, HSPA, LTE, fiber optics, ATM and many others.

WAN being a large network has a tendency of being affected by malicious software such as virus. Additionally, it is difficult and complex to be managed by private administrators and in this regard, WANs normally have a public ownership whereby network devices in this network can either be wireless connection or cable connection.

Read Further: Difference Between Wi-Fi, WiMAX and Bluetooth

LAN Vs. MAN Vs. WAN In Tabular Form

BASIS OF COMPARISON LAN MAN WAN
Acronym For LAN stands for Local Area Network.   MAN stands for Metropolitan Area Network. WAN stands for Wide Area Network.  
Bandwidth Bandwidth is low.   Bandwidth is higher than LAN.   It has the highest bandwidth among all types of networks.  
Connection Connects computers and work station in office or home.   Interconnects network in a town or city. Connects geographically separated LANs.
Cost Of Setting Up Set up cost is low since less hardware is required.   Set up cost is higher than LAN.   It the most expensive and complex network to set up.
Communication Medium The Ethernet cable is used as the main communication medium Coaxial cables and microwaves communication technologies are used.   High-speed communication technologies such as satellite, telephone lines are used.  
Standard Uses IEEE 802 Standards.     Uses IEEE 802 standard. Uses ITU standard.
Networking Devices Networking devices such as hub, repeater and switch are used in LAN.   Networking Devices such as switch, gateway, hub, router and brouter are used in MAN. Networking devices such as router, gateway, hub and switch are used in WAN.
Operational Speed Operation speed of LAN is normally 10, 100 and 1000 Mbps. Operational speed of MAN is normally 100 Mbps. Operation speed of WAN is normally 1.5 Mbps and it is subject to variation on wireless network.
Coverage Distance The distance covered by LAN technology is between 1 Km and 10 Km. Mostly installed in offices and schools.   The distance which is covered by MAN technology is normally up to 100 KM and is mostly installed In cities and towns. The distance which is covered by WAN technology is unlimited. It can cover an entire states or continent or the whole world.
Ownership Owned by private companies or individuals.   Ownership can be private or public. Established under distributed ownership.
Maintenance  Easy to design and maintain.   Difficult and relatively complicated to design and maintain.   Difficult and complicated to design and maintain.  
Congestion LAN technology system is less congested than WAN & MAN.   MAN technology system is more congested than LAN, and less congested than WAN. WAN technology system is more congested than LAN & MAN combined.
 Tolerance during Fault Condition LAN system provides more tolerance during any fault condition.   MAN system is less tolerant during any fault condition. WAN is less tolerant during any fault condition.
Usage LAN system is mostly used by desktop computers, laptops and smart phones.   Mainly used by fixed desktop computers. Used by any device.
Propagation Delay Propagation delay is short.   Propagation delay is long. Propagation delay is moderate.