Local Area Network (LAN) Definition

This type of network is generally called a LAN and are privately-owned networks within a single building or campus of up to a few miles in size. They are widely used to connect personal computers and workstations in company offices and factories to share resources (e.g. printers) and exchange information. LANs are distinguished from other kinds of networks by three characteristics: 1) their size, 2) their transmission technology, and 3) their topology.

LANs are restricted in size, which means that they 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.

LANs often use a transmission technology consisting of a single cable to which all the machines are attached, like the telephone company party lines once used in rural areas. Traditional LANs run at speeds of 10 to 100 Mbps, have low delay (tens of microseconds), and make very few errors.

Related Terms

  • Wide Area Network (WAN)

Other Definitions

Computer Networks by Andrew S. Tanenbaum

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