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Definition: data network


A communications network that transmits data. Essentially all networks are data networks, including local area networks (LANs), public and private wide area networks (WANs) and the Internet, the global wide area network. See LAN and WAN.

Data Are Voice and Video Too
In the past, voice traffic, which was analog as well as digital, flowed over separate networks owned and managed by the telephone companies (see SS7). Today, all voice traffic that flows cross-country over telephone company and Internet backbones is digital, and much of it is in the form of Internet packets using the IP protocol. However, there are millions of analog telephones in homes and on office desktops that will likely remain for many years. See analog telephone and VoIP.

The first video conferences also used private networks, both analog and digital. Now, video traffic is digital and may flow over a private network or the Internet. Contrast with voice network. See communications.