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Definition: WAN

(Wide Area Network) A long-distance communications network that covers a wide geographic area, such as a state or country. The telephone companies and cellular carriers deploy WANs to service large regional areas or the entire nation. Large enterprises have their own private WANs to link remote offices, or they use the Internet for connectivity. Of course, the Internet is the world's largest WAN.

WANs, LANs and MANs
A LAN (local area network) is contained within a building or complex. A MAN (metropolitan area network) generally covers a city or suburb. Following is a bandwidth comparison between major LAN and WAN technologies. See LAN, MAN and personal area network.