What is a WAN?

  • A WAN (Wide Area Network) is a network spanning a large distance or broad area (e.g. across metros, cities, countries, continents)

A sample WAN  layout is given below:

A typical WAN

A typical WAN

  • Typically, any network hop that is larger than 10 km is classified as a WAN, but this distance is not very strictly adhered to.
  • Even the last mile link that connects a home network to a local ISP (Internet Service Provider) is considered  as a WAN link.
  • A WAN connects multiple networks ( LANs/MANs, CANs) spread across long distances together
  • A WAN link is a wired or wireless telecommunication link that has the capability to carry data over long distances.
  • It is usually not owned by a single administrative domain.
  • Due to the distance factor,  data transfer rates are lower and delays higher for a WAN, when compared to LAN
  • Internet is the largest WAN, spanning the world, connecting all the public data networks.
  • A WAN network may either be a point-to-point link, connecting two remote networks, or it may be a switched WAN network, involving multiple WAN switches connecting multiple networks.
  • DSL, cable, SONET, T1/E1, Wi-Max are examples of point-to-point WAN network.
  • X.25, Frame Relay, ATM, MPLS are examples of Switched WAN networks.

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