Network Types – CompTIA A+ 220-801: 2.8

We often use many different network types to connect our devices together. In this video, you’ll learn the differences between a LAN, WAN, PAN, and MAN.

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The term LAN stands for Local Area Network. And although the term local is pretty relative, we’re really talking about the network that is inside of a building, maybe a network that extends between multiple buildings. But it’s in a relatively confined area. We’re using things like Ethernet connectivity, or 802.11 wireless access. If you get slower than that, people really don’t consider that a local connection. If you have local connectivity, then you generally have some pretty nice bandwidths to be able to get to your local data.

A WAN is a Wide Area Network. It is a network that extends across a large area. This might go to the other side of the world. It might go down the street, but it’s something that’s not connecting to you locally. You generally have to connect across a long distance to be able to do that. And also, generally, your speeds are not going to be as good as if you are directly connected over a LAN type of connectivity.

There are many, many different ways to connect over a Wide Area Network. There’s point-to-point connections. There’s serial connections. You’ve got MPLS-type connectivity. You can connect in the ground, using cables all the way to that remote side, or you might use something like a satellite connection that’s a non-terrestrial link. If you’re going over those longer distances, then it’s going to be a WAN connection.

The term PAN is a relatively new term in networking. It stands for Personal Area Network. Generally, this is a Bluetooth network, with your own devices connecting to it. But it could also be a low-powered 802.11 wireless network as well. We commonly see this in our automobiles. We can connect our mobile devices to our automobile audio system. We can integrate our dialing service so that we can have complete hands off. We can keep our hands on the wheel and our eyes looking forward using that personal area network. Our mobile phones also have our wireless connections we might have for Bluetooth so that we don’t have wires anywhere around. It makes it more convenient to use the telephone. And also, if you want to use this for health purposes, there’s some great mobile meters that you can stick on your clothing, or on your belt, that will measure how much you’ve walked that day. And you can keep track of your health using that personal area network.

A MAN is a Metropolitan Area Network. This is a network that is bigger than a LAN and smaller than a WAN. It’s usually just in a city, however, so, usually, you are connecting to devices that are within a relatively small geography. Historically, these MANs have connected via protocols in connectivity that have been very, very specific to the metropolitan area.

But these days, we seem to be standardizing more and more on Ethernet. So there is a type of Ethernet called Metro Ethernet, or Metropolitan Ethernet. And these days, it’s a very common way to connect up to the MAN so that you can connect devices that might be in the same city. Although we’ve historically had network providers that gave us access from one site to another over large distances, we’re finding that Metropolitan Area Networks are increasingly being owned by the government themselves.

That’s because, obviously, the government has, already, the right of way. It’s contained within a metropolitan area. And these days, it’s become very easy, from a technological perspective, to put fiber in the ground and connect different sites together. And if you’ve already got the right of way, it makes it a very cost-effective way for the government to provide you with a low cost network connection.