LAN Vs WAN Vs MAN: Exact Difference Between Types Of Network

Explore the Differences between LAN, WAN, And MAN.

Layers of the OSI Model were explained in detail in our previous tutorial. In this tutorial, we will take a look at  the most common types of network.

Various types of computer networking systems are used for communication systems all throughout the world.

The most common types of networks include Local Area Network (LAN), Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) and Wide Area Network (WAN).

Read through the Entire Networking Series of Tutorials for perfect knowledge of the concept.

A suitable communication network has to be deployed, depending upon the type of network design, Arial radius estimated cost, speed required, nodes need to be connected, bandwidth and various other factors.

In this tutorial, we will take an in-depth look at LAN, MAN and WAN networks and explore their vivid features.

Differences between lan, man and wan

We also will get to know how these computer networking systems will help the software testers to make their work easy at their workplaces.

Local Area Network (LAN)

Local area networks are constructed for small geographical areas within the range of 1-5 km such as offices, schools, colleges, small industries or a cluster of buildings. It is extensively used to design and troubleshoot.

Let’s understand it with the help of an Example:

PC’s, laptops and workstations in an office are generally inter-connected with each other by using LAN networks through which we can share data files, software, e-mail and access hardware such as printers, FAX etc. All the resources or host are connected via a single cable in LAN.

The transmission rate of LAN ranges from 4Mbps to 16Mbps and can maximize up to 100 Mbps (Mbps stands for megabits per second). We can use any type of network topology which meets the need of the network such as a ring or bus for the interconnection of the host in LAN networks.

Ethernet, token ring, Fiber distributed data interchange (FDDI), TCP/IP and asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) are the most common protocol that is used in this network.

LAN networks are of various kinds depending upon the type of media, topology, and protocols they are using for communication.

LAN network

Applications of LAN

(i) The first application of the LAN network is that it can be easily implemented as a server-client model network. For Example, In a university, suppose all the hosts are connected through LAN, then one of the PC can be converted into Server and all the other PC’s will be clients which can have access to the data stored on the client computers.

By having this kind of a facility the Dean and the professors of the university can easily share data or resources with each other as they are on the same network.

(ii) As all the workstations are connected locally, if they want to pass on some internal communication, then each node can communicate with one another without having any internet connection.

(iii) The resources like printers, hard-disk, and FAX machine can publicly use all the nodes in LAN networks.

(iv) Software testers can also use LAN network for sharing their testing tools within an office or within a factory using the client-server model of the networking system. The software can be put on one centralized server whose data is made accessible by all the client PCs with the help of a local administrator.

The clients can also suggest the changes if they require any of their business purposes on the same network regarding the tool. Thus sharing a software tool locally will make the work easy and speed up the ongoing process.

Advantages of LAN

Given below are the various advantages of LAN:

  • In an office which is connected via LAN network, we can share the hardware and software resources like printers, FAX, drivers and hard-disk as they are on one platform and thus this type of network turns out to be cost-effective.
  • As being connected on the network, the offices or firms using the same type of software for job purposes need not purchase separately for each of the host clients as the software can easily be shared with everyone on an equal level.
  • LAN network works as a client-server model, therefore data can be stored centrally on one PC called as a server in a network and it can be accessible to all the other client PC’s via LAN. By following this method, we need not store data locally at one single node.
  • Communication will be handy and economical by using LAN network.
  • Internet cafe owners use the LAN network to provide internet connections to multiple nodes and users connected via a single internet connection. This makes the use of the internet a cost-effective one.

Disadvantages of LAN

The disadvantages of LAN are:

  • LAN networks come out to be cost-effective and time-saving, as we can share various resources on one platform. However, the initial installation cost of the network is very high.
  • It is having a geographical area limitation and can only cover a small area (1-5 km).
  • As it works on a single cable, if it gets faulty then the overall network will stop working. Hence, it needs a full -time maintenance officer called an administrator.
  • Crucial Data of offices or factories is saved on a single server which can easily be accessible by all the nodes thus it is having all time data security issues as any unauthorized person can also access the confidential data.

Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)

MAN covers a bigger geographical area than LAN Network E.g. cities and districts. It can also be considered as a superior version of the LAN network. As LAN covers only a minor area of the network, MAN is designed to connect a city or two villages together through it.

The area covered by MAN is generally 50-60 km. Fiber optical cable and twisted pair cables are used for connectivity for communication through MAN networks.

MAN can also be considered as a group of one or more LAN networks connected together through a single cable. RS-232, X-25, Frame Relay, and ATM are the common protocol practice for communication in MAN.

MAN Network

Application of MAN

#1) Various government bodies use MAN network for inter-connectivity between their department’s offices situated at different locations.

For Example, MAN can be used to connect various police stations which are situated within a district or city with each other. The officers can easily communicate with each other and quickly pass on the important data and an urgent message over this network without any need for the Internet connection.

#2) Any private firm can also use a MAN network for inter-connectivity between their offices situated at two different towns of a district. The firm can share resources like data file, images, software & hardware parts etc., with each other. Thus it provides resource sharing over a large distance than the LAN networks.

Advantages of MAN

Given below are the various advantages of MAN:

  • It is very efficient and swift for communication over fiber optic cable for interconnection of networks in cities.
  • It serves many villages and cities and thus provides great inter-connectivity at a low cost.
  • It works on ring or bus topology with a protection link, thus data can be transmitted or received simultaneously over nodes and if one link fails the other will keep the network live.

Disadvantages of MAN

The disadvantages of MAN are:

  • Depending upon the distance between two nodes, the cable length required for inter-connection differs every time. Thus greater will be the cable length, the more will be the cost of the network.
  • Security is a big concern for this network as for such a big distance anyone can hack the network. We can’t put security at each level of the network, hence it becomes easier for unwanted people to access it for their own benefits.

Wide Area Network (WAN)

WAN is widely used in long-distance communication systems.

It covers bigger areas i.e right from a state to a country. Therefore the geographical area it covers is from 100 to several 1000 km. WAN networks are complex in nature, however, they are widely used in mobile communications as they cover up long distances.

Generally, fiber optic cable is used as a media for transmission in this system.WAN works on physical, data-link and network layers of the OSI Reference model.

Routers are used in WAN network for communication as they provide the shortest path for communication over long distance using routing tables. Routers also provide a secure and fast rate of transmission.

Different types of data need to be transmitted over the network like image, voice, video and data files. Therefore the routers use packet switching technique for sending and receiving data between nodes. It is not necessary that the device used should be a router only, other devices such as switches, bridges etc., are also used for connectivity.

Routers have routing tables by which they learn the host and destination address for delivery of the data packet and that in turn is the shortest path for transmission. By following this mechanism a source end router will communicate with the far end destination router and exchange the data packets.

Routers and switches have internal memories. Thus when a data packet has arrived at a switch node for delivery, it uses to store and forward the technique for data transmission.

If a media is busy then the node (switch or router) stores the data packets and queues it and when it finds the link free, it then transmits it further. Therefore, packet switching uses data store, queuing and forward technique in the case when the link is found busy.

If the link is free then it just stores and forwards the packet and no queuing is required. For fast and error-free transmission, high bandwidth STM links are used to connect two distinct end nodes.

STM links provide fully synchronous transmission between the sender and a receiver and also provide error detection. In case any error is found then the packet is discarded and is re-transmitted. Routers are most popularly used by Mobile networking companies as they provide fast and reliable communication.

The WAN network can be of two types:

  1. Wired WAN – This uses OFC as the media for communication
  2. Wireless WAN – Satellite communication is a type of WAN network.

WAN Network

Applications of WAN

#1) Consider the case of an MNC where the head office is situated in Delhi and the regional offices are situated in Bangalore and Mumbai. Here, all are connected through a WAN network.

If HOD’s of corporate office want to share some data with their regional office mates then they can share data (image, video or any data of big size) by saving it on the centralized node which can be accessible by everyone in the organization and is on one single network only.

The centralized server is maintained by an administrator who has the rights to grant access to the users connected to the main server. The administrator will allow sharing only that information which is of the scope of the client nodes.

The rights are reserved for confidential data and only a few higher level authorities of the company will have the rights to access it.

The software testers can also work in this scenario and can share their tools with their colleagues situated hundreds of km away in just a few minutes by using WAN network.

#2) The WAN networks are used for military services. The satellite mode of transmission is used in this setup. Military operations require highly secured network for communication. Thus WAN is used in this scenario.

#3) Railways reservation and Airlines use WAN networks. The client nodes are situated all over the country and are connected to a centralized server node and all are connected to one network. Thus booking can be done from anywhere in the country.

#4) Mobile operators and service providers like NSN or Ericsson use WAN network to provide mobile services in a particular circle. Different circles of a country are also connected with each other through WAN networks. The connections are made through routers and switches using higher bandwidth STM links.

#5) The WAN network also works in master-slave scenario and main & protection link topology.

If one link fails then the data transmission will keep moving smoothly by a protection link. By master-slave scenario, if the master device fails then the slave will act as a master and will take all the responsibilities for data packet transmission without any delay and failure.

Advantages of WAN

Given below are the various advantages of WAN:

  • It connects various cities and states with one another. Hence, large scale industries can be connected to one single network.
  • N number of nodes can be connected over this network for sharing software.
  • As routers are used for sending and receiving the end of the network, the rate of transmission is very high even if we send large sized files of more than 10 MB.
  • All users connected via WAN will remain in synchronization with each other at all the time, therefore, there will be no chances of communication gap between them.
  • The users can share the hardware like printers, hard-disk etc. with each other and there is no need to buy a separate connection for internet as all type of communication can be done within as they are being on one network only.

Disadvantages of WAN

The disadvantages of WAN are:

  • Confidential and important data is shared over a long distance, hence there are chances for unwanted people to try to interrupt and hack the data. Therefore there is always a need to purchase a security firewall for the network to protect it from the outside threats.
  • Set-up of WAN network is complex and costly.
  • As WAN network is spread over a very large distance, we need to deploy a local administrator at every intermediate point to ensure its maintenance and fault control.
  • Local monitoring of such wide networks is not sufficient enough to maintain it properly. Therefore, some companies, like mobile operators will set up a NOC and purchase a GUI based centralized monitoring tool for operation and maintenance purpose. This will cost them a lot of manpower and money for running it smoothly.


In this tutorial, we have studied the features, applications, advantages, and disadvantages of LAN, MAN, and WAN computer networking system. All three types of networking systems have their own significance in different fields.

MAN networks are very rare in use as they have lots of security issues and the installation costs are very high as well.

According to the latest trend of technology, LAN networks are most widely used for local level communications within offices and colleges while WAN is widely used in mobile and LTE long distance communications where the connectivity is based on the fiber cable.

LAN networks are very cost effective as once setup is done there is no need of further expenditure while in WAN networks, by the increase in the number of nodes in a network the overall cost of the network increases. Therefore WAN networks are very costly and require high maintenance too.

The speed of LAN is more than the speed of WAN networks. Depending upon the business requirement and budget of the network, we need to decide the type of network which would be suitable for effective implementation.

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