5 Classification of Networks by Scale

In Chapter 2 we discussed classification of networks by their topology. Another important criterion for classifying networks is their scale (physical size). As shown in Figure 8 there are:

Personal Area Network (PAN) - The interconnection of devices within the range of an individual person, typically within a range of 10 meters. For example, a wireless network connecting a computer with its keyboard, mouse or printer is a PAN. Also, a PDA that controls the user's hearing aid or pacemaker fits in this category. Another example of PAN is a Bluetooth. Typically, this kind of network could also be interconnected without wires to the Internet or other networks.

Local Area Network (LAN) - Privately-owned networks covering a small geographic area, like a home, office, building or group of buildings (e.g. campus). They are widely used to connect computers in company offices and factories to share resources (e.g., printers) and exchange information. LANs are restricted in size, which means that the worst-case transmission time is bounded and known in advance. Knowing this bound makes it possible to use certain kinds of designs that would not otherwise be possible. It also simplifies network management. Traditional LANs run at speeds of 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps, have low delay (microseconds or nanoseconds), and make very few errors. Newer LANs operate at up to 10 Gbps.

Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) - Covers a larger geographical area than is a LAN, ranging from several blocks of buildings to entire cities. MANs can also depend on communications channels of moderate-to-high data rates. A MAN might be owned and operated by a single organization, but it usually will be used by many individuals and organizations. MANs might also be owned and operated as public utilities. They will often provide means for internetworking of LANs. Metropolitan Area Networks can span up to 50km, devices used are modem and wire/cable.

Wide Area Networks (WAN) - Computer network that covers a large geographical area, often a country or continent. (any network whose communications links cross metropolitan, regional, or national boundaries). Less formally, a network that uses routers and public communications links. Routers will be discussed later.

Networks by Scale
Figure 8: Networks by Scale
Network Math and Metric Units Index Networking Devices