What are LAN MAN WAN in computer network ?

LAN stands for Local Area Network, WAN stands for Wide Area Network and MAN stands for Metropolitan Area Network. All the technologies are mainly used for data communication and provide coverage distances up to 100 to 1000 meters. The figure-1 below depicts all the three network topologies viz. LAN, MAN and WAN.

LAN MAN WAN Network Types

LANs, MANs, and WANs have been developed to meet specific networking needs and address different geographical and organizational requirements.


LAN has smaller coverage range within the house or office premises or can at least connect from one building to the nearby building. Most of the LANs usually will have about 10 to 100 users. Multiple users in LAN time share the system. LAN has been developed to allow sharing of common resource such as printer,harddisk and modem to more than one PCs. In this scenario PC connected with common resource is called as controller through which all the users will access the resource. As the days evolve people started using LAN for e-mail system for corporate network, here one system is configured as server storing mail boxes of all the users.

Latest advancement in the LAN technology supports data rates which range from 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps till 1Gbps. LAN is designed initially as per 802 standards, later various wireless standards are evolved such as IEEE 802.11a, 11b, 11g and 11n. Currently research is to finalize products supporting IEEE 802.11ac and 802.11ad supporting very high data rates.

Following are the 5 advantages of LAN.
1. It offers high speed data transfer rates.
2. It offers low latency which ensures minimal delay in communication between devices.
3. It is relatively easy to set up and manage.
4. LAN components are affordable which makes LANs cost effective.
5. It can be more secure as they are confined to specific area.

Following are the 5 disadvantages of LAN.
1. LANs are limited in coverage and are not suitable for connecting geographically dispersed locations.
2. Expanding LAN can be complex, especially in large organizations and may require network redesign.
3. LANs are isolated networks which limits connectivity to devices within the same LAN.
4. Managing and maintaining LAN infrastructure can become cumbersome as network grows.
5. While LAN components are relatively affordable, the cost can still add up for larger deployments.


CAN stands for Campus Area Network. It is network composed of multiple inter-connected LAN in limited coverage area. CAN network type is smaller in comparison with MAN and WAN as described below. Examples of CAN based network:
• SUNet network of Stanford University
• Project Athena of MIT

CAN offers following benefits:
• It is cost effective.
• It enables multi-department network access
• It supports single and shared data transfer


MAN occupies coverage in between LANs and WANs. MAN has distance coverage and data rate higher than LAN, but less than WAN. This is the major difference between LAN and MAN. MAN overlaps to some extent to geographical coverage requirement of WAN. A typical example of MAN is Local Cable TV system. Here cable TV company picks up programs from satellite and delivers to individual homes via coaxial cable. Each home is a node in this network of nodes.

Following are the 5 advantages of MAN.
1. MANs cover larger geographical areas connecting multiple LANs.
2. It offers faster data transfer rates than WANs.
3. MANs enable efficient sharing of resources such as data centers and servers, across multiple locations.
4. Redundancy and backup capabilities can be implemented more effectively in MANs, enhancing disaster recovery options.
5. MANs strike balanace between high costs of WAN infrastructure and limited coverage of LANs.

Following are the 5 disadvantages of MAN.
1. MANs can be more complex to design and maintain than LANs.
2. Establishing MAN may require significant investment in infrastructure and leased lines.
3. MANs offer higher latency compare to LANs but lower than WANs.
4. Managing security across multiple locations in a MAN can be challenging.
5. MANs are not suitable for connecting remote or widely dispersed locations.


WAN has coverage larger than LAN and mainly used for cellular applications supporting both voice and data applications. Larger network covering entire country or state is referred as WANs. Most WANs are telephone systems. Various technologies are existing to support WAN such as WiMAX, GSM, CDMA, HSPA, LTE, fiber optics, ATM and more. Covers distance upto 1000-10 kilo-meters and also goes upto 100km.

Following are the 5 advantages of WAN.
1. WANs provide global connectivity, allowing organizations to connect geographically distant offices and users.
2. They are highly scalable.
3. They enable centralized control of resources and data which enhances data management and access control.
4. WANs offer wide range of connectivity options from leased lines to satellite links, providing flexibility in network design.
5. WANs support remote access for users and devices which facilitates remote work and mobile connectivity.

Following are the 5 disadvantages of WAN.
1. Building and maintaining WAN infrastructure can be expensive.
2. WANs offer higher latency compared to LANs/MANs.
3. WAN configuration and management can be complex, requiring skilled IT personnel.
4. WANs are susceptible to security threats amd securing data can be challenging.
5. WANs often rely on third party service providers, which can lead to dependancy and potential service disruptions.

10 Difference between LAN, MAN and WAN

Following table mentions comparison between LAN, MAN and WAN with respect to various computer network parameters.

1 Scope Small geographical area e.g. a single building or campus Large geographical area e.g. city or metropolitan region Vast geographical area e.g. across cities, states or countries
2 Coverage distance About 1-2 kms Covers several Kms to tens of kms Spans hundreds to thousands of kms
3 Data transfer speed High speed (Typically in Mbps to Gbps range) High speed , faster than WANs but slower than LANs Variable, often slower than LANs and MANs in Kbps to Gbps range
4 Latency Low Low to Moderate Moderate to high
5 Ownership and control Owned and controlled by single organization Owned and controlled by a single organization or multiple organizations Owned and controlled by various entities and service providers
6 Infrastructure Cost Relatively lower Higher than LANs and lower than WANs High infrastructure costs
7 Topology Typically uses bus, ring or star topologies Various topologies (ring, star, mesh) depending on requirements Often uses point to point or mesh topologies
8 Reliability and redundancy Generally simpler, with limited redundancy Can implement redundancy for improved reliability Can implement extensive redundancy and failover mechanisms
9 Security Easier to secure within a confined area Moderate security challenges due to larger coverage area Complex security challenges, requiring robust measures
10 Use cases Suitable for small scale networking, file sharing, printing Connects multiple LANs within a city, suitable for city wide resources Connects remote offices, branches and global communication networks
11 Example with transport medium Home ethernet network using twisted pair ethernet cables Citywide fiber optic network using fiber cables Global satellite networks using satellite links

Conclusion : The primary differences between LANs, MANs (Metropolitan Area Networks), and WANs (Wide Area Networks) lie in their coverage and scale. MANs extend their reach to cities, connecting multiple LANs with moderate-speed connections, whereas WANs span vast distances, facilitating global connectivity with variable speeds and higher latencies. LANs are cost-effective and straightforward but have limited reach. MANs balance cost and coverage, while WANs are suitable for remote connections but come with higher expenses and complexity. Each network type has its unique advantages and disadvantages, making them suitable for different scales and use cases.

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