A wide area network or WAN is a computer network covering a wide geographical area, involving a vast array of computers. This is different from personal area networks (PANs), metropolitan area networks (MANs) or local area networks (LANs) that are usually limited to a room, building or campus. The best example of a WAN is the Internet.
WANs are used to connect local area networks (LANs) together, so that users and computers in one location can communicate with users and computers in other locations. Many WANs are built for one particular organization and are private. Others, built by Internet service providers, provide connections from an organization's LAN to the Internet. WANs are most often built using leased lines. At each end of the leased line, a router connects to the LAN on one side and a hub within the WAN on the other. Network protocols including TCP/IP deliver transport and addressing functions. Protocols including Packet over SONET/SDH, MPLS, ATM and Frame relay are often used by service providers to deliver the links that are used in WANs. X.25 was an important early WAN protocol, and is often considered to be the "grandfather" of Frame Relay as many of the underlying protocols and functions of X.25 are still in use today (with upgrades) by Frame Relay.
Academic research into wide area networks can be broken down into three areas: Mathematical models, network emulation and network simulation.