Difference Between LAN and WAN


Main Difference

LAN and WAN are two different kinds of network connections used for communication between the devices attached to a particular network. LAN stands for Local Area Network, and WAN stands for Wide Area Network. In a LAN computers are attached to each other using a network device such as a hub, switch or router. LAN is limited to a small geographical area. An office, a school, an organization possess their LAN. LAN is usually inside a single building. On the other hand, WAN is the wide area network that is formed by attaching multiple LANs together. It is widespread regarding the geographical area. We can also say that a WAN comprise of several LANs connected with each other. WAN can be widely spread over a country or even across the borders.

Comparison Chart

Abbreviation ofLocal Area NetworkWide Area Network
DefinitionLAN is the local area network that covers the small geographical area. i.e. a network established in hospital building etc.WAN is the wide area network that includes several LANs connected with each other. It is cover a wide geographical area such as cities, states, etc.
IncludesSmall offices, organizations, schools, hospitals homes, etc.Large wide areas such as cities, states, countries, continents, etc.
Communication SpeedLAN is very much fast, and normally it speeds ranges up to 1000 Mbps.WANs possess less speed than LANs maximum up to 150 Mbps.
Data transfer rateLANs have higher data transfer rate as compare to MANs and WANs.WANs possess low data transfer rate as compare to LANs and MANs even.
Devices UsedIn LANs, most of the times layer 2 and layer one devices are used which are switches and hubs respectively.In WANs layer 3 (Network Layer) devices are used which includes routers, multilayer switches, ATM, etc.
CostLANs are low in setup cost as compare to WANs. Maintenance cost is also low.WANs are expensive regarding Setup and maintenance both.
BandwidthIn LANs high bandwidth is present for communication.In WANs low bandwidth is present for communication as compared to LANs.
CongestionLess congestionMore congestion
OwnershipLANs are usually owned by a single person or are in possession of organization.A WAN is not particularly own by a person or organization. The shares are divided among partners.
ExamplesThe network established in a school or office building is LAN.The Internet itself is the best example of WAN.

What is LAN?

LAN stands for Local Area Network. It is the common sort of network established inside a building or local area. It covers the small geographical area. LANs are found mostly inside an office building, in an organization, in a school or a hospital. LAN is the most common sort of communication network that is established in a small geographical area. The computers or nodes inside a LAN can be directly attached to each other using a single LAN cable or can be attached to common network devices. Layer 1 and Layer 2 devices are commonly used inside the LAN for establishing the connection. These layers refer towards the universally accepted seven-layered OSI model that is established as network architecture and depicts the end to end communication in detail. Commonly used layer 1 and layer two devices in a LAN are the hub and switch respectively. Bridge and other various devices are also used for this purpose. LAN possess extremely high-speed communication. The data transfer rate in a LAN can reach up to 1000 Mbps. LANs are easy to setup and are cheap in setup and maintenance both. A single person can own LAN, or it can be in possession of a particular organization inside which the LAN network is established.


What is WAN?

WAN stands for Wide Area Network. A WAN is established by connecting multiple LANs together. We can also say that a WAN consist of several LANs connected with each other. As the name of the network states its kind, it the kind of network that is used for covering the large geographical area. A WAN can cover cities, states, countries, continents and even the whole world. The Internet is the most common example of a WAN network that covers the whole world. LANs inside a WAN network are connected via layer three devices. Layer 3 is referred as the Network layer in the standard 7 Layer OSI model. The most commonly used network layer or layer three devices are routers and multilayer switches. Communication in a WAN network is slower as compared to LAN and ranges maximum up to 150 Mbps. It is quite complex and costly to set up a WAN. Maintenance of a WAN is also costly as compared to LAN. WAN communication suffers more congestion than the LAN.


  • LAN stands for Local Area Network.
  • WAN stands for Wide Area Network.
  • LAN covers the small geographical area.
  • WAN covers the wide geographical area.
  • LAN uses layer 1 and layer two network devices.
  • WAN consist of several LANs and uses layer three

Comparison Video

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Harlon Moss

Harlon currently works as a quality moderator and content writer for Difference Wiki. He graduated from the University of California in 2010 with a degree in Computer Science. Follow him on Twitter @HarlonMoss

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