WAN makes it possible that commute, create a unified network for organizations with a wide range of locations, or perform any online operations. This post provides a full guide about WAN (wide area network) for you. Keep on your reading.

WAN is essential for international businesses and daily use since the Internet is considered the largest WAN in the world. This post from MiniTool introduces some basic information about WAN. If you are interested in it, you can keep reading.

What Is WAN

What is WAN? WAN is the abbreviation of the wide area network. Wide area network is a form of telecommunications network that can connect devices from multiple locations and all over the world, which is the largest and most extensive form of computer network available to date.

These networks are established by the service provider. Then lease its WAN to companies, schools, governments, or the public. As long as these customers can access the established WAN, they can use the network to relay and store data or communicate with other users.

History of WAN

The US Air Force created the first known WAN in the late 1950s to interconnect stations in the semi-automated ground environment (SAGE) radar defense system. A huge dedicated telephone line, telephone, and modem network connect the sites.

The foundation of the IP-based Internet began with the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), the first wide-area packet switching network with distributed control and the first network to implement the TCP/IP protocol suite.

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Purpose of WAN

If there is no WAN connection, the organization will be isolated in a restricted area or a specific geographic area. The wide area network will allow organizations to work in their buildings, but cannot extend to outside areas (different cities or even different countries).

As organizations grow and internationalize, WAN allows them to communicate between branches, share information, and stay connected. However, the wide area network also provides basic services to the public. University students may rely on WAN to access library databases or university research. Every day, people rely on WAN for communication, banking, shopping, etc.

Types of WAN

The following are some main types of wide area network.

Packet Switching

Data packet switching is a method of data transmission in which a message is divided into several parts, called data packets. These messages are sent independently through the best route for each packet in triplicate and then reorganized at the destination. Each data packet contains a part called the payload, and an identification header containing destination and reassembly information.

TCP/IP Protocol Suite

TCP/IP stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. TCP/IP is a protocol suite of basic communication protocols used to interconnect network devices on the Internet and other computer/device networks today.


A router is a network device commonly used to interconnect LANs to form a wide area network (WAN), so it is called a WAN device. IP routers use IP addresses to determine where to forward packets. The IP address is a digital label assigned to each connected network device.

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Overlay Network

An overlay network is a data communication technology in which software is used to create a virtual network on top of another network (usually hardware and cable infrastructure). This is usually done to support applications or security features that are not available on the underlying network.


There are many different forms of local area networks, but one of the most common networks outside the WAN is the local area network (LAN).

WAN can exist on a global scale without being associated with a physical location through the use of a leased network provider, while LAN exists in a limited area. LAN can be used to access a larger WAN (such as the Internet), but it can only be accessed within an area that the LAN infrastructure can reach.

To get more information about WAN vs LAN, you can refer to this post – WAN VS LAN: What Is the Difference Between Them.

Final Words

To sum up, this post introduces the definition, history, purpose as well as the types of WAN (wide area network). Besides, there are some differences between WAN and LAN. I hope that this post can be helpful to you.

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