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Computer Networks, In-Depth Look At The Three Main Networks

In the realm of computing, three fundamental networks take center stage: Local Area Network (LAN), Metropolitan Area Network (MAN), and Wide Area Network (WAN).

If you’ve delved into our introductory piece on computer networks, you’re likely familiar with the broad strokes of each network type.

Yet, in this article, we’ll delve deeper, catering to those well-versed in networks, and providing a nuanced exploration for those eager to augment their existing knowledge base.

Table of Contents


A Local Area Network (LAN), denoting a local area network, serves to interconnect personal computers within a confined geographical space, facilitating the seamless sharing of tools and data among the networked computers.

The connection within LANs is typically established through the utilization of twisted and coaxial cables.

LANs, by design, cover relatively small areas and can adopt configurations such as bus, ring, or star topology.

In the LAN environment, messages traverse the network host to reach all connected computers, as they share the same transmission cable.

Broadcasting within LAN networks manifests in two distinct manners. Firstly, the static approach designates a specific time slice for information transmission.

Secondly, the dynamic method empowers the host to dispatch information at any given moment. These broadcasting methods contribute to the efficient communication framework inherent in LANs.


Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) extends its reach beyond the confines of Local Area Networks (LANs), encompassing a larger geographical expanse.

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MANs interconnect two or more computers situated within the same city or even across different cities. Remarkably versatile, MANs can function as internet service providers, albeit their intricacies make them challenging to maintain and design.

Two prominent types of MAN networks include Distributed Queue Dual Bus (DQDB) and Switched Multimegabit Data Services (SMDS).

DQDB, signifying Distributed Queue Dual Bus, adopts a dual bus configuration where each host in the network is linked to two backbone network lines, enhancing redundancy and reliability.

SMDS, denoting Switched Multimegabit Data Services, interconnects diverse LAN networks, enabling the seamless transfer of packets between these LANs.

Operating as a high-speed MAN network, SMDS leverages packet switching as a datagram service, facilitating efficient data transmission across the interconnected networks.


Wide Area Network (WAN) stands as an expansive network, surpassing the geographical scope of both Local Area Networks (LANs) and Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).

WANs establish connections across vast distances, linking LANs or even other WANs through mediums such as telephone lines or radio waves.

Ownership of WANs can be either private or public, offering a diverse range of applications. The communication infrastructure commonly employed by WANs includes the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) or satellite links.

However, the considerable distance traveled by transmissions in WANs often introduces more noise and errors into the network.

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One of the principal challenges faced by WAN users is the substantial propagation delay inherent in these networks.

WANs incorporate switching mechanisms that enable multiple computers to connect with various switches rather than establishing direct connections with each other.

Moreover, WANs employ a store-and-forward concept, wherein packets are temporarily stored in a buffer before being forwarded along a predetermined path to their destination. This approach enhances the efficiency of data transmission within the expansive framework of WANs.

LAN vs. MAN vs. WAN

The coverage area of a Local Area Network (LAN) is relatively small, typically limited to places like schools, clinics, or buildings.

In contrast, a Wide Area Network (WAN) spans much larger distances, connecting countries and continents.

A Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) falls in between, covering the space size between a LAN and WAN and is often used to connect small towns and cities.

LANs utilize wifi and Ethernet cables for data transmission, providing faster data transfer compared to both MAN and WAN.

MANs typically employ modems and wired connections, while WANs use optic wires and satellites for transmission.

In terms of maintenance and design, LANs are generally more accessible than both WANs and MANs. LANs also boast higher bandwidth for transmission compared to WANs and MANs.

When it comes to data transmission errors, LANs experience fewer errors, while both MANs and WANs are more prone to such issues.

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This distinction highlights the reliability of LANs in ensuring efficient and secure data transfer within a confined geographical area.


While WANs and MANs serve crucial roles in connecting larger geographical areas, LANs shine in terms of reliability, data transmission speed, and the ability to scale up to form expansive network configurations.

Each type of network plays a vital role in meeting the diverse communication needs of various environments.

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