We often describe network types in broad geographical terms. In this video, you’ll learn the difference between a LAN, WAN, PAN, and MAN.
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When you’re working on a network, it’s useful to understand the scope, or the size of the network. So, in this video we’ll look at the characteristics associated with a LAN, a WAN, a MAN, and a PAN.
A LAN stands for a local area network, and of course the term local is a bit relative. It could be all in a single room, it might be a set of buildings, or maybe an entire campus. You may consider all of those to be on your local area network. A LAN is usually going to run an ethernet connection, perhaps a wireless 802.11 connection. If you’re having to put in a slower network connection than this, it’s probably not going to be a local communication.
Communication over a longer distance might be considered a WAN, or wide area network. This is a connection that is certainly larger than a local area network. You’re often going to another city, you’re communicating across the country, or you’re communicating across the world.
Because you are going such an extended distance beyond what you would normally see on a LAN, the speeds that are associated with wide area network technology are generally slower than what you’ll see for an ethernet, or an 802.11 network. And of course, for a wide area network connection, there’s no single way to do this. You might want to configure a point-to-point connection with T1s or E1s. It might be MPLS that’s being used to communicate over this WAN. You might be using a terrestrial link with a wired connection between sites, or it might be a non-terrestrial link where all of your communication is occurring through a satellite connection.
A MAN sits somewhere between a LAN, and a WAN. This is a metropolitan area network, so this is usually in a central city, or a smaller geographical area that’s relatively local to wherever you are. Usually it is a local telecommunications provider that’s giving you this MAN connectivity. And these days they’re usually providing you with simply an ethernet connection, and they’re connecting up all of your local MAN sites with this ethernet connectivity.
Behind the scenes they probably have a much higher speed fiber backbone that’s running throughout the city itself. These days we also see more governments taking advantage of metropolitan area networks. Since the government itself has the right of way to be able to put whatever they would like into the ground, it’s very common for them to run conduit, run their own fiber, and have their own metropolitan area network.
A network that’s really going to be just for you is one that’s going to be a personal area network, or a PAN. We see this a lot these days with our Bluetooth devices. We have headsets, and speakers, and other devices that are really just for us. So we’re going to connect those, usually, over a Bluetooth, or an infrared, or these days even an NFC communication.
This is something we commonly use in our automobiles. We connect our phone ups to our cars, and we’re able to use an external speaker and microphone when we’re driving. Or we might want to have our own headset that we walk around with, and we’ll connect our phone up to the device that’s in our ear. And these days we’re also using this for health purposes. If you want to have your workout tracked, or your sleep patterns tracked, it’s very common to have that all connected through a personal area network.