What Is the Difference Between WAN and LAN?

Nowadays, LAN and WAN are widely applied in the computer networks. They exit in all places of our daily life. For example, at the back of router, there are ports noted with LAN and WAN. Although many people often use them, and they may have little knowledge of what the difference between WAN and LAN is. Then after reading this article from Gigalight, the answer will be gotten.

The Definition of LAN
LAN, the abbreviation of Local Area Network, is a type of computer network that covers a small geographic area such as home, office, a small town, any building or institute. Due to the localized nature, the data transmission rate is very high in LAN, and it can be controlled and managed by one person or small-size organization. The maintenance cost of LAN is also very low. Besides, a LAN network includes a couple of computer systems connected with each other, with one system connected to a router, modem or an outlet for internet access. The LAN network is built using inexpensive technologies  products such as Ethernet cables, network adapters and hubs. However, other wireless technologies are also available to connect the computer via a wireless access.

The Definition of WAN
WAN, the abbreviation of Wide Area Network, is a type of computer network that covers a wide geographical area and communicated area across metropolitan, countries, national boundaries, across regional and over a long distance. It use leased telecommunication lines. WAN are often used by business and government agencies to connect to achieve strong network communication among employees, clients, supplier and buyers from various parts of the world. Due to its wide coverage, LAN is hard to manage and organize. Moreover, the maintenance cost of WAN is also high compared with PANs, LANs, CANs, and MANs. In addition, WAN uses technologies such as SONET, Frame Relay, and ATM. It also allows different LANs to connect to other LANs via technology products such as routers, hubs and modems. There are four main options for connecting WANs: leased line, circuit switching, packet switching and call relay.

LAN vs. WAN: What Are the Differences?
The main difference between LAN and WAN is that LAN is a type of computer network that covers a small geographic areas, while WAN is a type of computer network that covers a broad geographical area such as metropolitan, countries, regional, etc. Except for this, they also differ from each other in these apsects:

Coverage Ranges: the coverage ranges of LAN and WAN networks are different. LAN connects computers in a small physical area, while WAN connects larger areas situated in different geographical locations.

Network Speeds: the network speeds of LAN and WAN are varied. WAN is typically slower than LAN due to the data transmission distance. The maximum speed of LAN is 1000 Mbps while WAN can only reach 150 Mbps.

Security Level: as for the security level, LAN seems to be better than WAN. Because WAN involves more people into the interconnection, there is a greater possibility of network issues.

Costs: due to the smaller network coverage, setup and maintenance costs for LAN are usually lower than that of WAN.

Note: many interconnected LANs can become the part of a larger WAN

Table about more differences of LAN and WAN:

LAN (Local Area Network)
WAN (Wide Area Network)

Application Location
a computer network covering a small geographic area, like  homes, offices, schools, or group of buildings
a computer network that covers a broad area
high speed (Up to 1000mbps)
low speed (Up to 150mbps)
using the layer 2 devices like switches, bridges and layer1 devices like hubs
using the layer 3 devices, routers and multi-layer switches
Management Mode
owned, controlled, and managed by a single person or organization; easier to maintain at relatively low costs
not owned by any organization but to exist under distributed ownership; difficult to maintain because of its wider geographical coverage and higher maintenance costs
data transmission
fewer data transmission errors
more data transmission errors

It is seen from the difference between LAN and WAN, both of them have their own merits and demerits. When it is hard to make a choice between them, the answer may be clear considered from the perspective of distance. Although LAN has more benefits than WAN, you still need to choose WAN when it comes to large areas networking.

About Gigalight:
Gigalight is a design innovator in global optical interconnect field. A series of optical interconnect products include: optical transceivers, passive optical components, active optical cables, GIGAC MTP/MPO cabling, cloud programmers & checkers, etc. Three applications are mainly covered: Data Center & Cloud Computing, MAN & Broadcast Video, and Mobile Network & 5G Optical Transmission. Gigalight takes advantage of its exclusive design to provide clients with one-stop optical network devices and cost-effective products.