What Is WAN and How Does It Function?

What Is WAN and How Does It Function?

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Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content
Updated on Feb 21, 2024 15:14 IST

Without wide-area networks (WAN), it would be impossible to telecommute, create unified networks for organizations with multiple locations, or do anything else online. So, what exactly is WAN, and why is it so crucial?


In this article, we will go over WAN in great detail. But, before we go any further, let’s go over the topics we’ll be covering in this article:

What is WAN? 

A wide-area network (WAN) is a collection of interconnected local-area networks (LANs) or other networks. This network is not bound to a single location and allows communication, information sharing, and other functions between devices all over the world.


You can also explore – What is LAN (Local Area Network)?

You can lease a private WAN infrastructure as a service from a third-party provider such as an internet service provider or cable company. Large businesses frequently use WANs to connect their office networks; each office usually has its LAN, which connects via a WAN. Wide-area networks are the backbone of an enterprise in today’s world. Companies can use WANs for a variety of tasks, such as:

  • Use voice and video to communicate.
  • Run or host internal applications.
  • Access data storage and backup data remotely, etc.

Common examples of a WAN connection 

Some of the common examples of a wide area network connection are:

  • Because we all use the Internet daily for one reason or another, it is the best example of a WAN network. It is also one of the world’s most prominent WAN connections, connecting the world’s largest and most comprehensive computer network.
  • Another example of an organization that uses a WAN is a bank, which includes its branch offices and ATMs. The branches may be in different states or even different countries, but they are all linked by various secure connections.

How do WAN connections function?

WANs are either point-to-point, with a direct connection between two sites, or packet-switched, with data transmitted in packets over shared circuits. Point-to-point WAN service can use either analog dial-up lines or modems to connect the computer to the phone line. Local telephone companies and long-distance carriers are both point-to-point WAN service providers.

Packet-switched network services are typically chosen by organizations with low data volumes or multiple sites for which multiple dedicated lines would be prohibitively expensive.

WAN network technologies

In the design of a WAN network, two technologies are used, namely:

Circuit switching: All messages will take the same path in a circuit-switched network. And resources along that path will be reserved for this connection. As a result, there is no need to keep track of the fragmentation because the entire message is sent as a single unit.

Let’s take a look at the figure for a better understanding:


Assume User 1 wants to use the network; it must ask for the request in order to obtain it, and then User 1 can communicate with User 3. If User 2 attempts to communicate with User 4 during the connection phase, the network will send a busy signal.

Packet switching: In a packet-switched network, the outgoing link determines the size of the packet, and these packets may take a different path. At the destination, these packets are collected and reassembled.


Now, assume User 1 wants to communicate with User 3 and User 2 wants to communicate with User 4. Then in this type of network, it is possible to do so at the same time.

You can also explore – What is the Difference Between LAN and WAN?

Wide Area Network protocols

Some of the most common WAN protocols are:

Frame relay: This sends data between LANs or WAN endpoints. It defines the physical and data-link layers of digital telecommunications channels through the use of packet switching.

ATM: Asynchronous Transfer Mode encodes data into small, fixed-sized cells using asynchronous time-division multiplexing. In contrast, today’s IP-based Ethernet technology employs variable packet sizes for data transmission.

PoS: Packet over SONET is a standard that converts IP packets into SONET frames. Because SONET has a lower packet header overhead than ATM, its goal is to transmit data at the highest possible rate.

IP suite: The Internet Protocol suite is the standard network mode that allows every web device to connect with every other web device at the same time.

MLS: Multiprotocol Label Switching transits traffic over private wide area networks using the shortest path based on “labels” rather than network addresses.

You can also explore – What is Wireless Networking?

Advantages of using Wide Area Network

Some of the advantages of using a wide area network are:

  • Covers a broader geographic area.
  • It benefits the global market and business.
  • IT infrastructure is centralized.
  • Increase your privacy.
  • Assists global markets and businesses.
  • Allows users to share resources and application software.
  • Allows you to send messages to anyone else on the network very quickly.

Disadvantages of using Wide Area Network

Some of the disadvantages of using a wide area network are:

  • It is very expensive because we must pay each time we transfer data.
  • Troubleshooting WAN can be time-consuming and challenging.
  • Wide Area Network is insecure and untrustworthy.
  • Because it is a public network, it is heavily reliant on a third party.
  • The network is difficult to maintain and requires skilled technicians and network administrators.
  • It has more security issues than LAN because it uses more technologies and has a wider coverage area.


This article covered WAN in great detail, including various topics, such as what is WAN, its examples, its working, protocols, technologies, and many more.


What are some of the most common WAN issues?

Common WAN issues include loss of Internet connectivity, DNS issues, interface issues, router configuration issues, etc.

Is it possible to have a LAN in a WAN?

It is possible, and almost always the case, for LANs to be linked to WANs.

What is one of the most serious problems in WAN?

One of the most serious problems with WAN is a lack of bandwidth.

Why are WANs so popular?

Through a WAN provider, WANs can facilitate communication, information sharing, and much more between devices worldwide.

How are WANs interconnected?

WANs can be linked via the internet, leased lines, or satellite links.

What are the advantages of WAN?

Some of the benefits of WAN include: Improve efficiency Communication is simple. Broad network coverage Distribute information over a large area, etc.

What is the WAN speed?

The WAN can reach speeds of up to 150 Mbps.

What is the world's largest WAN?

The Internet is the world's largest WAN.

About the Author
Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content

Anshuman Singh is an accomplished content writer with over three years of experience specializing in cybersecurity, cloud computing, networking, and software testing. Known for his clear, concise, and informative wr... Read Full Bio