Wide-area network

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A wide-area network (WAN) is any telecommunications network or computer network that extends over a large geographical distance/place. Wide-area networks are often established with leased telecommunication circuits. [1]

Telecommunications network network to enable telecommunication between different terminals

A telecommunications network is a collection of terminal nodes in which links are connected so as to enable telecommunication between the terminals. The transmission links connect the nodes together. The nodes use circuit switching, message switching or packet switching to pass the signal through the correct links and nodes to reach the correct destination terminal.

Computer network collection of autonomous computers interconnected by a single technology

A computer network is a digital telecommunications network which allows nodes to share resources. In computer networks, computing devices exchange data with each other using connections between nodes. These data links are established over cable media such as wires or optic cables, or wireless media such as Wi-Fi.

A leased line is a private bidirectional or symmetric telecommunications circuit between two or more locations provided in exchange for a monthly rent. Sometimes known as a private circuit or data line in the UK.


Business, education and government entities use wide-area networks to relay data to staff, students, clients, buyers, and suppliers from various locations across the world. In essence, this mode of telecommunication allows a business to effectively carry out its daily function regardless of location. The Internet may be considered a WAN. [2]

Internet Global system of connected computer networks

The Internet is the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries a vast range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents and applications of the World Wide Web (WWW), electronic mail, telephony, and file sharing.

Related terms for other types of networks are personal-area networks (PANs), local-area networks (LANs), campus-area networks (CANs), or metropolitan-area networks (MANs) which are usually limited to a room, building, campus or specific metropolitan area respectively.

Personal area network Computer network centered on an individual persons workspace

A personal area network (PAN) is a computer network for interconnecting devices centered on an individual person's workspace. A PAN provides data transmission among devices such as computers, smartphones, tablets and personal digital assistants. PANs can be used for communication among the personal devices themselves, or for connecting to a higher level network and the Internet where one master device takes up the role as gateway. A PAN may be wireless or carried over wired interfaces such as USB.

Local area network computer network that connects devices over a small area

A local area network (LAN) is a computer network that interconnects computers within a limited area such as a residence, school, laboratory, university campus or office building. By contrast, a wide area network (WAN) not only covers a larger geographic distance, but also generally involves leased telecommunication circuits.

A metropolitan area network (MAN) is a computer network that interconnects users with computer resources in a geographic area or region larger than that covered by even a large local area network (LAN) but smaller than the area covered by a wide area network (WAN). The term MAN is applied to the interconnection of networks in a city into a single larger network which may then also offer efficient connection to a wide area network. The term is also used to describe the interconnection of several local area networks in a metropolitan area through the use of point-to-point connections between them. It has a range of 5 to 50 kilometres.

Design options

The textbook definition of a WAN is a computer network spanning regions, countries, or even the world. [3] However, in terms of the application of computer networking protocols and concepts, it may be best to view WANs as computer networking technologies used to transmit data over long distances, and between different LANs, MANs and other localised computer networking architectures. This distinction stems from the fact that common LAN technologies operating at lower layers of the OSI model (such as the forms of Ethernet or Wi-Fi) are often designed for physically proximal networks, and thus cannot transmit data over tens, hundreds, or even thousands of miles or kilometres.

In telecommunication, a communication protocol is a system of rules that allow two or more entities of a communications system to transmit information via any kind of variation of a physical quantity. The protocol defines the rules, syntax, semantics and synchronization of communication and possible error recovery methods. Protocols may be implemented by hardware, software, or a combination of both.

OSI model Model with 7 layers to describe communications systems

The Open Systems Interconnection model is a conceptual model that characterizes and standardizes the communication functions of a telecommunication or computing system without regard to its underlying internal structure and technology. Its goal is the interoperability of diverse communication systems with standard protocols. The model partitions a communication system into abstraction layers. The original version of the model defined seven layers.

Ethernet computer networking technology

Ethernet is a family of computer networking technologies commonly used in local area networks (LAN), metropolitan area networks (MAN) and wide area networks (WAN). It was commercially introduced in 1980 and first standardized in 1983 as IEEE 802.3, and has since retained a good deal of backward compatibility and been refined to support higher bit rates and longer link distances. Over time, Ethernet has largely replaced competing wired LAN technologies such as Token Ring, FDDI and ARCNET.

WANs do not just necessarily connect physically disparate LANs. A CAN, for example, may have a localized backbone of a WAN technology, which connects different LANs within a campus. This could be to facilitate higher bandwidth applications or provide better functionality for users in the CAN. [4] [ not in citation given ]

In computing, bandwidth is the maximum rate of data transfer across a given path. Bandwidth may be characterized as network bandwidth, data bandwidth, or digital bandwidth.

WANs are used to connect LANs and other types of networks together so that users and computers in one location can communicate with users and computers in other locations. Many WANs are built for one particular organization and are private. Others, built by Internet service providers, provide connections from an organization's LAN to the Internet. WANs are often built using leased lines. At each end of the leased line, a router connects the LAN on one side with a second router within the LAN on the other. Leased lines can be very expensive. Instead of using leased lines, WANs can also be built using less costly circuit switching or packet switching methods. Network protocols including TCP/IP deliver transport and addressing functions. Protocols including Packet over SONET/SDH, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) and Frame Relay are often used by service providers to deliver the links that are used in WANs. X.25 was an important early WAN protocol, and is often considered to be the "grandfather" of Frame Relay as many of the underlying protocols and functions of X.25 are still in use today (with upgrades) by Frame Relay. [5]

Internet service provider organization that provides access to the Internet

An Internet service provider (ISP) is an organization that provides services for accessing, using, or participating in the Internet. Internet service providers may be organized in various forms, such as commercial, community-owned, non-profit, or otherwise privately owned.

Router (computing) Device that forwards data packets between computer networks, creating an overlay internetwork

A router is a networking device that forwards data packets between computer networks. Routers perform the traffic directing functions on the Internet. Data sent through the internet, such as a web page or email, is in the form of data packets. A packet is typically forwarded from one router to another router through the networks that constitute an internetwork until it reaches its destination node.

Circuit switching digital network implementation in which two nodes establish a dedicated channel through the network before they communicate

Circuit switching is a method of implementing a telecommunications network in which two network nodes establish a dedicated communications channel (circuit) through the network before the nodes may communicate. The circuit guarantees the full bandwidth of the channel and remains connected for the duration of the communication session. The circuit functions as if the nodes were physically connected as with an electrical circuit.

Academic research into wide-area networks can be broken down into three areas: mathematical models, network emulation, and network simulation.

Performance improvements are sometimes delivered via wide-area file services or WAN optimization.

Connection technology

Many technologies are available for wide-area network links. Examples include circuit-switched telephone lines, radio-wave transmission, and optical fiber. New developments in technologies have successively increased transmission rates. In ca. 1960, a 110 bit/s (bits per second) line was normal on the edge of the WAN, while core links of 56 kbit/s to 64 kbit/s were considered fast. As of 2014, households are connected to the Internet with Dial-Up, ADSL, Cable, Wimax, 4G or fiber. The speeds that people can currently use range from 28.8 kbit/s through a 28K modem over a telephone connection to speeds as high as 100 Gbit/s over an Ethernet 100GBaseY connection.

The following communication and networking technologies have been used to implement WANs.[ citation needed ]

400 Gigabit Ethernet

AT&T conducted trials in 2017 for businesses to use 400 gigabit Ethernet. [6] Researchers Robert Maher, Alex Alvarado, Domaniç Lavery, and Polina Bayvel of University College London were able to increase networking speeds to 1.125 terabits per second. [7] Christos Santis, graduate student Scott Steger, Amnon Yariv, Martin and Eileen Summerfield developed a new laser that quadruples transfer speeds over fiber optic cabling. [8] If these two technologies were combined, then a transfer speed of up to 4.5 terabits per second could potentially be achieved, although it is unlikely that this will be commercially implemented in the near future.

See also

Related Research Articles

Frame Relay


Synchronous optical networking

Synchronous optical networking (SONET) and synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) are standardized protocols that transfer multiple digital bit streams synchronously over optical fiber using lasers or highly coherent light from light-emitting diodes (LEDs). At low transmission rates data can also be transferred via an electrical interface. The method was developed to replace the plesiochronous digital hierarchy (PDH) system for transporting large amounts of telephone calls and data traffic over the same fiber without the problems of synchronization.

Fiber Distributed Data Interface standard for data transmission in a local area network

Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) is a standard for data transmission in a local area network. It uses optical fiber as its standard underlying physical medium, although it was also later specified to use copper cable, in which case it may be called CDDI, standardized as TP-PMD, also referred to as TP-DDI.

Network topology arrangement of the various elements of a computer network; topological structure of a network and may be depicted physically or logically

Network topology is the arrangement of the elements of a communication network. Network topology can be used to define or describe the arrangement of various types of telecommunication networks, including command and control radio networks, industrial fieldbusses, and computer networks.

A virtual LAN (VLAN) is any broadcast domain that is partitioned and isolated in a computer network at the data link layer. LAN is the abbreviation for local area network and in this context virtual refers to a physical object recreated and altered by additional logic. VLANs work by applying tags to network packets and handling these tags in networking systems – creating the appearance and functionality of network traffic that is physically on a single network but acts as if it is split between separate networks. In this way, VLANs can keep network applications separate despite being connected to the same physical network, and without requiring multiple sets of cabling and networking devices to be deployed.

Virtual private network virtual network extending a single private network across a public network like the Internet, appearing to users as a private network link

A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network, and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. Applications running across a VPN may therefore benefit from the functionality, security, and management of the private network.

Internet access individual connection to the internet

Internet access is the ability of individuals and organizations to connect to the Internet using computer terminals, computers, and other devices; and to access services such as email and the World Wide Web. Various technologies, at a wide range of speeds have been used by Internet service providers (ISPs) to provide this service.

Campus network A computer network linking smaller networks of a campus, such as for a business or university

A campus network, campus area network, corporate area network or CAN is a computer network made up of an interconnection of local area networks (LANs) within a limited geographical area. The networking equipments and transmission media are almost entirely owned by the campus tenant / owner: an enterprise, university, government etc.

Metro Ethernet

A metropolitan-area Ethernet, Ethernet MAN, or metro Ethernet network is a metropolitan area network (MAN) that is based on Ethernet standards. It is commonly used to connect subscribers to a larger service network or the Internet. Businesses can also use metropolitan-area Ethernet to connect their own offices to each other.

Industrial Ethernet

Industrial Ethernet (IE) is the use of Ethernet in an industrial environment with protocols that provide determinism and real-time control. Protocols for Industrial Ethernet include EtherCAT, EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, POWERLINK, SERCOS III, CC-Link IE, and Modbus TCP. Many Industrial Ethernet protocols use a modified Media Access Control (MAC) layer to provide low latency and determinism. Some microcontrollers such as Sitara provide Industrial Ethernet support.

An edge device is a device which provides an entry point into enterprise or service provider core networks. Examples include routers, routing switches, integrated access devices (IADs), multiplexers, and a variety of metropolitan area network (MAN) and wide area network (WAN) access devices. Edge devices also provide connections into carrier and service provider networks. An edge device that connects a local area network to a high speed switch or backbone may be called an edge concentrator.

In a hierarchical telecommunications network the backhaul portion of the network comprises the intermediate links between the core network, or backbone network, and the small subnetworks at the edge of the network.

Ethernet physical layer

The Ethernet physical layer is the physical layer functionality of the Ethernet family of computer network standards. The physical layer defines the electrical or optical properties of the physical connection between a device and the network or between network devices. It is complemented by the MAC layer and the logical link layer.

Carrier Ethernet is a marketing term for extensions to Ethernet to enable telecommunications network providers to provide Ethernet services to customers and to utilize Ethernet technology in their networks.

Fiber media converter

A fiber media converter is a simple networking device that makes it possible to connect two dissimilar media types such as twisted pair with fiber optic cabling. They were introduced to the industry in the 1990s, and are important in interconnecting fiber optic cabling-based systems with existing copper-based, structured cabling systems. They are also used in metropolitan area network (MAN) access and data transport services to enterprise customers.


  1. "A WAN Is a Wide Area Network. Here's How They Work". Lifewire. Retrieved 2017-04-21.
  2. Groth, David and Skandler, Toby (2005). Network+ Study Guide, Fourth Edition. Sybex, Inc. ISBN   0-7821-4406-3.
  3. Forouzan, Behrouz. Data Communications and Networking. McGraw-Hill. p. 14. ISBN   9780073376226.
  4. "Campus Area Networks (CAN). Computer and Network Examples". conceptdraw.com.
  5. "Frame relay". techtarget.com.
  6. "AT&T Completes Industry-Leading 400 Gb Ethernet Testing, Establishing A Future Network Blueprint for Service Providers and Businesses". www.att.com. September 8, 2017.
  7. Maher, Robert; Alvarado, Alex; Lavery, Domaniç; Bayvel, Polina (11 February 2016). "Increasing the information rates of optical communications via coded modulation: a study of transceiver performance". Scientific Reports. 6 (1): 21278. doi:10.1038/srep21278. PMC   4750034 . PMID   26864633.
  8. "A New Laser for a Faster Internet - Caltech". Cal Tech.