LAN, which stands for local area network, and WAN, which stands for wide area network, are two types of networks that allow for interconnectivity between computers. As the naming conventions suggest, LANs are for smaller, more localized networking — in a home, business, school, etc. — while WANs cover larger areas, such as cities, and even allow computers in different nations to connect. LANs are typically faster and more secure than WANs, but WANs enable more widespread connectivity. And while LANs tend to be owned, controlled and managed in-house by the organization where they are deployed, WANs typically require two or more of their constituent LANs to be connected over the public Internet or via a private connection established by a third-party telecommunications provider.

Comparison chart

LAN versus WAN comparison chart
Stands ForLocal Area NetworkWide Area Network
CoversLocal areas only (e.g., homes, offices, schools)Large geographic areas (e.g., cities, states, nations)
DefinitionLAN (Local Area Network) is a computer network covering a small geographic area, like a home, office, school, or group of buildings.WAN (Wide Area Network) is a computer network that covers a broad area (e.g., any network whose communications links cross metropolitan, regional, or national boundaries over a long distance).
SpeedHigh speed (1000 mbps)Less speed (150 mbps)
Data transfer ratesLANs have a high data transfer rate.WANs have a lower data transfer rate compared to LANs.
ExampleThe network in an office building can be a LANThe Internet is a good example of a WAN
TechnologyTend to use certain connectivity technologies, primarily Ethernet and Token RingWANs tend to use technologies like MPLS, ATM, Frame Relay and X.25 for connectivity over longer distances
ConnectionOne LAN can be connected to other LANs over any distance via telephone lines and radio wComputers connected to a wide-area network are often connected through public networks, such as the telephone system. They can also be connected through leased lines or satellites.
ComponentsLayer 2 devices like and bridges. Layer 1 devices like hubs and repeaters.Layers 3 devices Routers, Multi-layer Switches and Technology specific devices like ATM or Frame-relay Switches etc.
Fault ToleranceLANs tend to have fewer problems associated with them, as there are smaller number of systems to deal with.WANs tend to be less fault tolerant as they consist of large number of systems.
Data Transmission ErrorExperiences fewer data transmission errorsExperiences more data transmission errors as compared to LAN
OwnershipTypically owned, controlled, and managed by a single person or organization.WANs (like the Internet) are not owned by any one organization but rather exist under collective or distributed ownership and management over long distances.
Set-up costsIf there is a need to set-up a couple of extra devices on the network, it is not very expensive to do that.For WANs since networks in remote areas have to be connected the set-up costs are higher. However WANs using public networks can be setup very cheaply using just software (VPN etc).
Geographical SpreadHave a small geographical range and do not need any leased telecommunication linesHave a large geographical range generally spreading across boundaries and need leased telecommunication lines
Maintenance costsBecause it covers a relatively small geographical area, LAN is easier to maintain at relatively low costs.Maintaining WAN is difficult because of its wider geographical coverage and higher maintenance costs.
BandwidthHigh bandwidth is available for transmission.Low bandwidth is available for transmission.
CongestionLess congestionMore congestion

What is a LAN?

Local area networks (LANs) allow computers and devices that are near each other — and usually making use of the same switch or router — to connect to share files and complete tasks. Consisting only of everyday devices (e.g., desktops, laptops, tablets, printers), router and/or switch, and Ethernet cables or wireless cards, LANs are relatively inexpensive to set up and are commonly used in homes.

Ethernet cables, like the Cat5, Cat5e, and Cat6 and Cat6a, can be used to physically connect computers to the network. In the instances where fiber-to-the-home (or similar) is available, copper cabling may also be used at some point. Wi-Fi has become one of the most popular methods for wireless networking over a local network.

LAN, WAN, TEL system
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