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What is WAN Network? – Wide Area Network Definition and Other Concepts

what is wan network

While discussing what is WAN network, it is crucial to understand the other kinds of computer networks too. Read about LAN, MAN, and WAN here!

In our ever-evolving technological landscape, our need to stay connected has outgrown the boundaries of local networks. We aim for smooth communication and the sharing of resources over great distances, and at the heart of this connectivity tale stands the Wide Area Network (WAN). 

WAN is like an unseen superhighway stretching across cities, countries, and even continents, allowing us to overcome the geographical barriers that once restricted our interactions. It is like the magic thread that weaves our digital world together, ensuring we can seamlessly connect and share information, no matter the physical distance.

Keep reading the blog till the end to understand the WAN network in detail.

What is WAN network?

A Wide Area Network (WAN) is like a super-sized internet for computers. It is this network that connects different local area networks (LANs) and other devices spread out over big areas like cities, countries, or even entire continents. WANs make it possible for data and information to travel across long distances, making communication between faraway places easier. 

Unlike smaller LANs, which cover just one building or campus, WANs use a bunch of technologies, like leased lines, satellite connections, and the Internet, to link everything up. These networks are super important because they connect far-off offices, data centers, and branches. This means organizations can talk to each other efficiently, share stuff, and access services from one central hub on a global scale. So, WANs are the backbone of today’s super-connected world.

What is the importance of WAN network?

The importance of WAN networks is as follows-

  1. Connecting the Globe: WANs make it possible for organizations to communicate globally, linking up different places around the world and allowing them to function smoothly across cities, countries, and continents.
  2. Sharing Resources: WANs play a key role in sharing resources like files, applications, and databases among various branches and offices. This fosters collaboration and makes operations more efficient.
  3. Centralizing Services: Through WANs, organizations can centralize services such as data storage, processing, and applications on a worldwide scale. This centralization leads to more efficient management and cost-effectiveness.
  4. Anywhere Access: WANs offer remote access to resources, enabling employees to connect to the corporate network from different locations. This promotes flexibility in work arrangements.
  5. Disaster Resilience: WANs support disaster recovery by allowing organizations to duplicate data and applications across multiple locations. This ensures business continuity in the event of a localized failure or disaster.
  6. Enhanced Communication: WANs boost communication by facilitating real-time data exchange and video conferencing between remote offices. This improves decision-making processes and collaboration.
  7. Swift Data Transfer: Utilizing technologies like high-speed leased lines and fiber optics, WANs ensure fast and efficient data transfer over long distances.
  8. Economic Savings: Through centralization and resource sharing, organizations can save costs in infrastructure, maintenance, and IT management compared to maintaining separate systems for each location.
  9. Adaptable Growth: WANs easily accommodate organizational growth by adding new locations or expanding existing ones without major changes to the network architecture.
  10. Competitive Edge: A well-designed and efficient WAN provides a competitive advantage. It allows organizations to respond promptly to market changes, deploy new services globally, and adapt to evolving business needs.

How is Wide Area Network different from Local Area Network (LAN) and Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)?

The difference between Local Area Network (LAN), Metropolitan Area Network (MAN), and Wide Area Network (WAN) is as follows-





Full Form

LAN stands for Local Area Network.

MAN stands for Metropolitan Area Network.

WAN stands for Wide Area Network.

Geographic Coverage

Covers a small geographic area, such as a single building, campus, or a group of nearby buildings.

Spans a larger geographic area, typically covering a city or a large campus.

Encompasses a wide geographic area, connecting devices across cities, countries, or continents.

Size of Network

Generally smaller in scale, connecting devices within a localized area.

Moderately larger than LANs, connecting multiple LANs within a metropolitan area.

Largest in scale, connecting devices across extensive geographic distances.

Data Transfer Rates

Offers high-speed data transfer within the local network.

Provides moderate to high-speed data transfer rates within the metropolitan area.

Typically has lower data transfer rates compared to LANs and MANs due to longer distances.

Technologies Used

Uses technologies like Ethernet and Wi-Fi for data transmission within a confined area.

Utilizes diverse technologies, including fibre optics and wireless connections, for efficient data transfer within a city.

Involves various technologies such as leased lines, satellite links, and public or private networks for long-distance communication.


Typically has low latency, ensuring quick data transmission within the local area.

Offers moderate latency, balancing the need for high-speed connectivity and longer distances.

Generally has higher latency due to extended geographical coverage.

Use Cases

Used for local resource sharing, intranets, and connecting devices within a single organization.

Suitable for connecting multiple branches or campuses of an organization within a city.

Ideal for connecting geographically dispersed offices, branches, or data centers on a global scale.


Generally has lower setup and maintenance costs compared to MANs and WANs.

Costs are moderate, falling between LANs and WANs.

Involves higher setup and maintenance costs, especially for long-distance connectivity.


Generally more reliable due to the limited geographical area and fewer points of failure.

Moderately reliable, with redundancy options available to enhance network stability.

Faces potential reliability challenges due to longer distances and a higher number of potential points of failure.

Expansion Ease

Relatively easy to expand within the same physical location.

Scalable to accommodate additional locations within the metropolitan area.

Can be expanded globally but involves complex scaling due to diverse international infrastructures.

Security Consideration

Easier to implement and maintain security measures within the confined local area.

Requires robust security measures, considering the larger coverage area and potential external threats.

Presents greater security challenges due to long-distance connections and diverse network infrastructures.

Cost Per User

Generally has a lower cost per user, making it cost-effective for smaller groups.

Moderate cost per user, suitable for medium-sized organizations within a city.

Higher cost per user, especially for global networks, due to extensive infrastructure requirements.

Impact of Network Congestion

Minimal impact from network congestion due to the localized nature of the network.

Moderate impact, depending on the size of the metropolitan area and the level of congestion.

More susceptible to congestion issues, potentially leading to delays in data transmission.

Internet Access Points

Typically has a single internet access point for the entire local network.

Multiple access points may be distributed across the metropolitan area for efficient internet connectivity.

Involves various internet access points globally, providing widespread internet connectivity.

What are the characteristics of WAN networks?

The characteristics of WAN networks are as follows-

  1. Covering Vast Areas: WANs span extensive geographical regions, linking devices and networks across cities, countries, or even continents.
  2. Mix of Public and Private Infrastructure: WANs utilize a combination of public and private communication infrastructure, incorporating leased lines, satellite links, and the Internet into their network architecture.
  3. Swift Data Transfer: WANs frequently leverage technologies that facilitate high-speed data transfer, ensuring efficient communication over extended distances.
  4. Centralized Administration: WANs may adopt centralized management for essential services like data storage, applications, and security. This centralized approach streamlines network administration.
  5. Connecting Local Networks: WANs establish connections between multiple local area networks (LANs) and link various devices within those networks, facilitating seamless communication across different locations.
  6. Emphasis on Reliability: WANs are intricately designed with redundancy and reliability features to ensure uninterrupted operation. Backup connections and failover mechanisms handle network failures effectively.
  7. Support for Diverse Protocols: WANs accommodate a variety of communication protocols, catering to different data types and applications. This versatility ensures compatibility in diverse network environments.
  8. Robust Security: Due to their expansive reach, WANs implement robust security measures, including encryption, firewalls, and virtual private networks (VPNs), safeguarding data during transmission.
  9. Scalability for Growth: WANs are scalable to adapt to an organization’s growth. They allow for the addition of new locations and the expansion of existing network infrastructure without significant overhauls.
  10. Facilitating Remote Access: WANs enable remote access to network resources, empowering users to connect from various locations. This capability fosters flexibility in work arrangements and supports effective remote collaboration.

What are the components of a WAN network?

The components of a WAN network are as follows-

  • Infrastructure Elements

  1. Routers: Routers are like the traffic directors of a WAN, guiding data packets between different networks. They make smart decisions based on addresses to ensure data reaches its destination efficiently.
  2. Switches: Switches create a mini-network within the WAN by linking various devices like computers and servers. Unlike basic hubs, switches cleverly forward data only to the device that needs it, optimizing overall network performance.
  3. Modems: Modems play a key role in connecting the WAN to the Internet or other networks. They convert digital data from computers into analogue signals for smooth transmission over communication lines and vice versa, facilitating seamless data exchange.
  • Communication Mediums

  1. Leased Lines: Leased lines are like exclusive highways between two locations, offering a dedicated and secure channel for communication. They’re leased from service providers for exclusive use, ensuring reliable and consistent data transfer.
  2. Fiber Optics: Fiber optic cables use light signals for data transmission, providing high-speed and high-capacity communication. Known for their resistance to electromagnetic interference, these cables are ideal for long-distance transmissions in WANs.
  3. Satellite Connections: Satellite connections utilize orbiting satellites to transmit data between locations, offering global coverage. While useful in remote areas, they can introduce latency due to the distance data must travel between Earth and the satellite.

How does WAN work?

Let us break down how Wide Area Networks (WANs) work in simpler terms.

Imagine you have different offices for your company in different cities, and want them to connect and share information. That is where a Wide Area Network comes in.

  1. Connection Style: You can have a direct line connecting two offices. This is like a simple, direct phone call between two locations. Or, you could have one main office (hub) and several smaller offices connected to it (spokes), like a central hub for communication.
  2. Connecting Lines: You might have dedicated lines leased from a service provider. Think of it like having your expressway for data. Or, you might use the Internet to send information in smaller packets. It’s like sending small pieces of a puzzle separately and putting them together at the destination.
  3. Key Devices: A router is like a traffic cop, deciding the best route for your data. A switch helps send information to the right place within an office. A modem converts digital data into a form that can travel over regular phone lines.
  4. Protocols: TCP/IP is like the common language everyone understands on the Internet. There are older languages like Frame Relay, but now we have more modern ones like MPLS, making communication smoother.
  5. Packing and Unpacking: Imagine packing your stuff for a trip. You put labels on your bags (headers) with your name and destination. This is like encapsulation. When you arrive, you take off the labels, and your belongings are back to normal. This is decapsulation.
  6. Staying Safe: VPNs act like secret codes for your data, making sure it’s safe and sound when travelling over the Internet. 
  7. Different Services: Some offices might have super-fast Internet lanes (leased lines). Others might use private roads (MPLS) for a more secure journey.
  8. Managing Traffic: Just like a traffic light, we use QoS to give more priority to important things, like making sure your video call is smooth even if someone is downloading a big file.
  9. Sending and Receiving: WANs use special ways to send data, like using HTTP/HTTPS for websites, FTP for files, and SMTP/POP/IMAP for emails.

So, in simple terms, WANs help offices in different places talk to each other, and they use various tools to make sure the conversation is fast, secure, and efficient.

What are the WAN protocols?

The WAN protocols are as follows-

  1. PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol): Think of PPP as a way for your computer to directly connect to the internet through methods like dial-up or DSL.
  2. HDLC (High-Level Data Link Control): HDLC is like a rulebook for communication between devices over a network. It is often used in situations where you have a direct line between two points.
  3. Frame Relay: This one is all about efficiently sending data over shared lines in a network. It is widely used and works well in setups like leased line connections.
  4. ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode): ATM is a tech that breaks down data into fixed-size packets for quick and reliable transmission. It suits both LANs and WANs.
  5. X.25: X.25 is an old-school packet-switching protocol that was once a big player in connecting devices over wide-area networks.
  6. MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching): MPLS is like a traffic manager for networks, helping data move fast and efficiently, especially in large setups.
  7. BGP (Border Gateway Protocol): BGP is the language routers use to talk to each other on the internet, making sure data finds the best path between different networks.
  8. IP (Internet Protocol): Not just for WANs, but IP addresses are the home addresses of devices on a network. BGP and other routing protocols help these devices communicate.
  9. TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol): These are messengers in charge of making sure data gets from one place to another over the internet.

What are the types of WAN connections?

The types of WAN connections are as follows-

  1. Point-to-Point WAN: Think of this like a direct road between two places. Data travels straight from one point to another without making any stops.
  2. Point-to-Multipoint WAN: It is like a main office talking to several branch offices. The central hub sends information to all the branches, but the branches might not talk directly to each other.
  3. Fully-Meshed WAN: Imagine a web where every point is connected to every other point. It is like a network where everyone can chat with everyone else. It is great for backup options, but it can be a bit like managing a spider’s web.
  4. Hybrid WAN: This one’s a mix-and-match. It is like having different types of roads in your network – some direct, some connecting to multiple points. Organizations use this to tailor their network to their specific needs.
  5. Cloud-based WAN Solutions: Taking your network to the cloud. There are two main ways:
  • SD-WAN (Software-Defined WAN): It is like having a smart traffic controller that figures out the best route for your data, making things faster and cheaper.
  • Cloud WAN: This is when most of your network stuff lives in the cloud. It is like renting space in the cloud for your networking needs, making things more flexible and scalable.

What are the advantages of WAN networks?

The advantages of WAN networks are as follows-

  1. Global Connectivity: WANs help connect offices and branches worldwide. It is like having a giant internet highway that links up teams no matter where they are on the map.
  2. Resource Sharing: With WANs, teams can easily share files, apps, and databases. It is like having a virtual shared workspace, making teamwork smoother.
  3. Centralized Data Management: WANs let you keep all your important data in one central hub. It is like having a master file cabinet that everyone can access, ensuring everyone’s on the same page.
  4. Cost Savings: WANs save money by letting you share the same network for all your locations. It is like having one big kitchen where you cook for everyone, saving on pots, pans, and ingredients.
  5. Improved Communication: WANs make it easy for teams to chat in real-time, whether through video calls or voice messages. It is like being in the same room, even if you are miles apart.
  6. Remote Access: WANs allow you to work from anywhere. It is like having a key to your office that fits any door, giving you the freedom to work from your favourite spot.
  7. Scalability: WANs can grow with your business. It is like having a network that can stretch or shrink based on how much you need, ensuring it always fits like a well-tailored suit.
  8. Redundancy and Reliability: WANs can set up a backup route for your data. It is like having a spare tire – if one path has a flat, your data can take a detour without slowing down.
  9. Data Security: WANs use tricks like encryption to keep your data safe during its journey. It is like sending a secret message that only your team can understand.
  10. Centralized IT Management: WANs let you manage your entire network from one central spot. It is like having a control center where you can keep an eye on everything without running around.

What are the challenges of using a WAN network?

The challenges of using a WAN network are as follows-

  1. Latency: WANs cover big distances, and sometimes there is a lag in sending data. It is like talking on the phone with a delay – not great for real-time stuff.
  2. Bandwidth Limitations: WANs have limits on how much data they can handle at once. It is like having a pipe where only a certain amount of water can flow through at a time.
  3. Security Concerns: Because data travels far, there is a risk of unwanted guests trying to peek at it. It is like sending a letter and making sure no one opens it along the way – you need good locks.
  4. Complex Configuration: Setting up a WAN is like creating a web of roads between cities, each with its own rules. Making sure everything runs smoothly is a bit like solving a puzzle.
  5. Costs: Expanding and keeping a WAN running can be pricey. It is like maintaining a bunch of highways connecting cities – costs for upkeep and expansion add up.
  6. Reliability Challenges: WANs can face disruptions from things like bad weather or equipment problems. It is like having a plan for when your regular route is blocked – you need backup plans.
  7. Limited Control Over ISPs: Organizations rely on others to provide WAN connections. It is like trusting someone else to maintain the roads – if they are not good, your journey won’t be either.
  8. Quality of Service (QoS) Issues: WANs struggle to keep all types of data moving at the same speed. It is like trying to manage traffic with both slow and fast vehicles on the same road – not everyone moves at the same pace.
  9. Network Congestion: During busy times, WANs can get jammed, and things slow down. It is like rush hour traffic – everyone’s trying to use the road at once.
  10. Compatibility and Interoperability: Connecting different devices on a WAN can be tricky. It is like making sure cars, bikes, and scooters can all use the same road smoothly – they need to work well together.

What are the future trends in WAN technology?

The future trends in WAN technology are as follows-

  1. SD-WAN (Software-Defined WAN): SD-WAN is a smart way of managing our network. It is getting even smarter with the use of things like artificial intelligence and machine learning. This helps make our network more flexible and able to adapt quickly to changes, making everything work better.
  2. Edge Computing and its Impact on WAN: Edge computing is like doing some of the computer stuff closer to where we need it. When it comes to WANs, this means making our network more efficient by bringing the computing power closer to where the action is happening. It is like having a little computer helper right where you need it, speeding things up and making everything run smoother.
  3. 5G and the Evolution of WAN: You know how we get excited about the latest and fastest internet on our phones? Well, 5G is like the superhero of fast internet. And in the future, our network (WAN) is going to use this superhero power to make everything even faster and more reliable. It is like upgrading from a regular road to a superhighway for data, making things like video streaming and cool tech stuff work even better.

Wrapping Up!

In this blog, you learned about what is WAN network and its other details in depth. Enroll on your Network Engineer Master Program to understand more such concepts in detail. For any queries or help, feel free to contact us. 

Happy Learning!

Frequently Asked Questions or FAQs

01. What is the full form of WAN?

The Full form of WAN is a Wide Area Network.

02. Explain WAN network

A WAN (Wide Area Network) is a technology network that extends over a large geographical area, connecting multiple smaller local area networks (LANs) or other WANs. It permits computers and users in one location to communicate with computers and users in another location, enabling the sharing of resources and information over wide areas.

03. Why is WAN commonly used?

WAN is commonly used because it enables organizations to connect geographically dispersed locations, share resources and information, facilitate communication between different branches or offices, and access centralized data and applications. The WAN network helps in improving collaboration, efficiency, and productivity across the organization.

04. Is a WAN wireless or wired?

A WAN can be both wired and wireless. It can use various communication technologies such as optical fibers, satellite links, microwave links, and cellular networks for wired connections, while wireless WAN technologies include Wi-Fi, cellular data networks (3G, 4G, 5G), and satellite communications.

05. What are the two types of WAN?

There are two main types of WAN- Circuit-switched WAN and Packet-switched WAN