What is Network Geography?

Network geography is a term that describes the geographic scale, of different network types. For that reason, if you are maintaining or designing a network, it’s important to understand these characteristics. First, let’s learn about one of the smallest of these network types, the personal area network.

Personal Area Network (PAN)

As the name implies, the personal area network, or PAN, describes the interconnection of computer devices found close to a person. For example, the connection between a smartphone and smartwatch. In fact, most PAN networks cover an area of only a few meters.

PAN – Defining characteristics:
  • Often lower data-transfer rates
  • Limited coverage distance – often a few meters
  • Typically used in vehicles & personal devices
  • Wired or wireless

Local Area Network (LAN)

A local area network, also known as LAN, is probably one of the better known network geographies. They connect network components together within a limited distance.

For example, if you have a network switch connecting a couple of computers at home, it would be considered a local area network.

LAN – Defining characteristics:
  • Small geographic area – usually a few hundred feet.
  • Ethernet (IEEE 802.3), or WiFi (IEEE 802.11) commonly used
  • Typically used in home, school, and office settings
  • Computers are on the same broadcast domain

LAN

A local area network often consists of wired connections between devices. Ethernet (IEEE 802.3) is commonly used.

WLAN

A wireless local area network, is simply a LAN that connects wireless client devices.

Campus Area Network (CAN)

A campus area network, or CAN covers often describes one or two interconnected buildings, such as what you would find on a school campus.

CAN – Defining characteristics:
  • Often higher data-transfer rates
  • Does not need a leased line
  • Covers larger geographic area – usually a few miles.
  • Typically used in campus, industrial, business & military settings
Diagram of a campus area network geography
Campus area networks cover areas of a few miles

Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)

Next, we have the metropolitan area network, also known as a MAN network. In contrast to the CAN network, MAN increases the coverage area up to 25 miles or so. Subsequently, MAN networks are commonly used by municipal governments to interconnect scattered locations across a metro area.

MAN – Defining characteristics:
  • Often higher data-transfer rates
  • Does not need a leased line
  • Larger geographic area – usually up to 25 miles.
  • Typically used in campus, industrial, business & military settings
A diagram of a metropolitan area network geography.
Metropolitan area networks cover areas up to about 25 miles

Wide Area Network (WAN)

Wide area networks, also known as WANs, connects geographically disparate internal networks. In order to to make this connection, a router is used. These networks usually consist of leased lines, or VPNs tunneled over the Internet.

WAN – Defining characteristics:
  • Often higher data-transfer rates
  • Does not need a leased line
  • Larger geographic area – can cover the entire globe
  • Typically used in campus, industrial, business & military settings
  • Private WANs are known as Intranets
  • The Internet is a public WAN

Wrap up

In summary, we learned that network geographies describe the geographic scale of a network. Then we looked at some of the most common network geographies, such as the local area network. If you’re interested in building or maintaining computer networks, understanding the network types and their characteristics will help you prepare to reach your goals.

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Categorized as Beginner