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LAN vs. WAN: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 6, 2023
LAN (Local Area Network) connects devices in a localized area, like a home or office. WAN (Wide Area Network) spans larger geographical areas, often a country or continent.

Key Differences

LAN, which stands for Local Area Network, primarily implies a network that interconnects devices within a localized physical location, such as a building or a campus. In contrast, WAN, standing for Wide Area Network, signifies a network that connects devices across broad geographical distances, possibly spanning cities, states, or even countries.
LANs typically facilitate the connection of computers and devices to share resources and information in a confined geographical area. Whereas, WANs enable the interconnection of LANs, not constrained to a specific physical location, thus enabling communication and data sharing between remote sub-networks.
LAN setups are often owned, installed, and maintained by a single organization or individual, offering a controlled and localized networking environment. In contrast, WANs might utilize leased telecommunication lines or satellites and encompass a much wider, geographically dispersed area, involving multiple LANs and networks.
In a LAN, data transfer speeds are generally higher since the network is localized, facilitating fast and efficient data sharing amongst local devices. Conversely, WANs may exhibit varied data transfer speeds, subject to the technologies and infrastructures employed, spanning larger data travel distances.
LAN environments tend to utilize technologies like Ethernet and Wi-Fi for connecting devices and are notable for their relatively stable and high-speed connections. On the other hand, WANs might implement a variety of technologies, like ATM, Frame Relay, or IP/MPLS, to ensure data transmission across the expansive areas and different types of infrastructures they encompass.

Comparison Chart


Local Area Network, localized network.
Wide Area Network, geographically dispersed network.


Restricted to small, localized areas.
Spans broad geographical areas, cities, or countries.


Typically owned and maintained by a single entity.
Could involve multiple networks and not owned by a single entity.


High data transfer speeds.
Varied data transfer speeds.

Usage Example

Connecting computers within an office.
Connecting networks across different cities or countries.

LAN and WAN Definitions


LAN typically exhibits high data transfer speeds.
The LAN enabled rapid data sharing among connected computers.


WAN may utilize various technologies for data transmission.
The WAN utilizes satellite technology for remote area connections.


A LAN connects computers and devices in a localized physical area.
The office set up a LAN to facilitate file sharing among employees.


WAN encompasses networks over large geographical areas.
The company uses a WAN to connect its international branches.


LANs are commonly owned and maintained by one entity.
The company owns the LAN infrastructure within its building.


WANs might exhibit varied data transfer speeds.
The WAN exhibited slowed data speeds due to the extensive coverage area.


LAN might utilize Ethernet or Wi-Fi technology.
We installed an Ethernet LAN in our office.


WANs connect multiple LANs together.
The WAN effectively connects the LANs of all regional offices.


LANs are usually restricted to small geographical areas.
The household devices are interconnected via a LAN.


WAN isn’t restricted to a localized area.
The WAN allows data sharing between cities.


A system that links together electronic office equipment, such as computers and printers, and forms a network within an office, building, or group of buildings


A communications network that uses such devices as telephone lines, satellite dishes, or radio waves to span a larger geographic area than can be covered by a LAN.


A local area network; a network{3} connecting computers and word processors and other electronic office equipment within a small area, to create an inter-office system, typically within one building or one site of a corporation. Contrasted to WAN, a wide-area network.


Unnaturally pale, as from physical or emotional distress.


A local computer network for communication between computers; especially a network connecting computers and word processors and other electronic office equipment to create a communication system between offices


Suggestive or indicative of weariness, illness, or unhappiness; melancholy
A wan expression.


Can WAN connect networks in different countries?

Yes, WAN can connect networks across different countries.

Does a WAN need to connect multiple LANs?

Yes, WANs often interconnect multiple LANs across geographical regions.

What is a common data transfer speed within a LAN?

LANs often offer high speeds, commonly ranging from 100 Mbps to 10 Gbps or more.

Is LAN typically faster than WAN?

Yes, LANs usually provide higher data transfer speeds than WANs.

Can LAN support video and voice conferencing within a building?

Yes, LANs often facilitate video and voice conferencing within a localized area.

What organizations commonly use WANs?

Large businesses, governments, and international organizations commonly use WANs to connect distant networks.

How do global companies benefit from using WANs?

WANs allow global companies to share data and resources, collaborate, and maintain connectivity across geographically dispersed locations.

What is the primary purpose of a LAN?

To enable resource and data sharing among devices in a localized area.

Are WANs typically more prone to latency than LANs?

Yes, due to the larger distances data must travel, WANs often have higher latency than LANs.

Is internet access typically facilitated by LAN or WAN?

Local devices access the internet via a LAN, which may be part of a larger WAN.

Is it possible to create a LAN using wireless technology?

Yes, a wireless LAN (WLAN) allows devices to connect without physical cables.

Is a home network an example of a LAN?

Yes, a home network where devices connect to a local router forms a basic type of LAN.

How do WANs manage to connect networks across oceans?

WANs can connect international networks using submarine cable systems, satellite links, or terrestrial connections.

Can devices in a LAN communicate without the internet?

Yes, devices in a LAN can communicate locally without an internet connection.

Can a LAN be used to play multiplayer games in a single location?

Yes, LANs are popular for hosting local multiplayer gaming sessions.

What role does a router play in a LAN?

A router connects a LAN to the internet or other networks and directs data packets between them.

Can a WAN connection be wireless?

Yes, WAN connections can be wireless, using technologies like satellite or cellular networks.

Can WANs be used for global online gaming?

Yes, WANs enable online gaming, allowing players from different locations worldwide to interact.

Can WAN infrastructure be leased or owned?

WAN infrastructure can be owned, but it's also common to lease connections and infrastructure, such as internet circuits, from service providers.

How are data and resources typically secured on a WAN?

WANs often employ encryption, VPNs, and secure protocols to protect data transmission across networks.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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