Local Area Network (LAN) Types: The 3 Networks to Know

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

Local Area Network (LAN) Types: The 3 Networks to Know<br />

Local Area Network (LAN) Types

Imagine you’ve just moved into a new apartment building. You get to know your neighbors, chat with them in the hallway, borrow a cup of sugar now and then. This is much like a Local Area Network (LAN), where computers are the neighbors, chatting and sharing information. Let’s delve into the fascinating world of LAN types and how they keep our digital neighborhoods lively.


A Local Area Network (LAN) is a small network, often within a home or office, that connects devices, like computers and printers, to share resources and data.

Type 1 – Ethernet LAN: This is the most common type of LAN and has evolved over the years. Ethernet LAN uses physical wiring to connect devices. The beauty of Ethernet is its simplicity, robustness, and speed, often surpassing wireless connections.

Type 2 – Wireless LAN (WLAN): A WLAN removes the need for cables, using radio waves to connect devices. It’s what you’re using when you connect to Wi-Fi. It has revolutionized the way we think about networking by offering the freedom of mobility.

Type 3 – Token Ring LAN: A somewhat historical yet interesting type of LAN, the Token Ring LAN operates quite differently from Ethernet. Instead of devices ‘shouting out’ whenever they want to send data, they must wait for a ‘token’ to come around, ensuring an organized, turn-by-turn communication. This technology, although largely replaced, holds a unique place in networking history.

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Local Area Network (LAN) Types In-depth

Ethernet LAN: The Digital Superhighway

Picture this: you’re driving on a multi-lane superhighway. The road is wide, accommodating many cars at the same time. It’s smooth and fast, ensuring everyone reaches their destinations quickly. In the world of Local Area Networks, an Ethernet LAN is like this bustling superhighway.

Just like how the lanes on a highway guide the cars, Ethernet LAN uses physical wiring – the lanes – to guide your data – the cars – to their destinations. And what’s the best part? No traffic jams! Ethernet LAN ensures a free-flowing, speedy transit of your data.

Now, let’s delve into the nuts and bolts. Ethernet uses a protocol (basically a set of rules for digital communication) that controls how data is transmitted over the network. Devices connected to an Ethernet LAN are able to send and receive data in small units called packets.

So, think of packets as your little data cars. Each car (packet) has a specific destination: the IP address of another device in the network. And just like cars have license plates, each packet contains the MAC address of the device it came from and where it’s going.

Ethernet LANs come in various speeds, too. You might have heard of terms like Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, or even 10-Gigabit Ethernet. These names indicate the network’s speed limit – how fast our data cars can zoom through the superhighway. And as technology evolves, Ethernet keeps getting faster and faster!

So, why do we love Ethernet LANs so much? Well, it’s simple, robust, and speedy. It’s like having a reliable, well-maintained superhighway where you can drive your data cars smoothly and quickly. Plus, because it uses physical wiring, it’s often more secure and stable than its wireless counterparts.

However, Ethernet isn’t without its quirks. Just like a wired telephone, it requires a physical connection – a wire. This means if you want to set up an Ethernet network, you’ll need to plan your cable routes and possibly drill some holes. But hey, nobody said building superhighways was easy, right?

So, whether you’re streaming your favorite movie, sending an important work file, or beating the final boss in a video game, remember, it’s all thanks to the Ethernet LAN, the digital superhighway of our interconnected world.

Wireless LAN (WLAN): The Unseen Freedom

Imagine being a bird, soaring freely in the sky. There are no roads to follow, no wires tying you down. You have the complete freedom to fly wherever your wings take you. This sense of liberation and mobility is what a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) offers in the realm of digital communication.

As its name suggests, a WLAN is a Local Area Network (LAN) that doesn’t need wires or cables to connect devices. It’s like having invisible highways in the sky, connecting your devices and letting your data fly freely.

How does this magic happen? The answer lies in radio waves. Just as birds communicate through sounds that travel through the air, a WLAN communicates through radio waves. At the heart of a WLAN is a device called a router, which acts much like a bird song does: it broadcasts a signal (our bird song) that other devices can connect to.

When your laptop, smartphone, or smart TV connects to a Wi-Fi network, it’s connecting to a WLAN. The device catches the signal broadcast by the router, like a bird listening out for other birds’ songs, and joins in the conversation. That’s how you’re able to stream videos, browse the internet, or join a video call, all without a single wire in sight!

Now, just as each bird’s song is unique, each device connected to the WLAN has its own unique address – an IP address. This ensures that when you’re sending or receiving data, the information goes to the right place, much like a bird delivering a message to the right nest.

WLANs aren’t just about convenience; they also bring a degree of flexibility that wired networks can’t match. Just as a bird can fly to any tree, WLAN users can move around freely within the network’s range. It’s this freedom and mobility that’s transformed our homes and offices into dynamic, wireless environments.

But, like a bird flying into a storm, WLANs sometimes face challenges. Thick walls, other electronic devices, or even other WLANs can interfere with your signal, affecting the network’s speed and stability. And, because radio waves can be intercepted, WLANs need strong security measures to keep your data safe.

Despite these challenges, the flexibility, mobility, and convenience of WLANs have made them a cornerstone of modern networking. So, next time you’re browsing the web from your cozy couch or the comfort of your bed, remember the unseen freedom a WLAN provides, letting your data fly freely like a bird in the sky.

Token Ring LAN: The Courteous Conversation

Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone is so eager to speak that they all start talking at once? It’s chaotic and hard to follow, right? Now, picture a different kind of meeting. Everyone sits around a round table, and there’s a single ‘talking stick.’ Only the person holding the stick can speak, while everyone else listens. This orderly and polite conversation is a lot like how a Token Ring Local Area Network (LAN) operates.

Unlike Ethernet LANs where data packets can ‘shout out’ whenever they want, Token Ring LANs follow a more civilized procedure. The ‘talking stick’ in this scenario is a special data packet known as a ‘token.’ Like the talking stick being passed around the table, the token moves from device to device in the network. Only the device holding the token can send data. Once it’s finished, it passes the token onto the next device.

You see, a Token Ring LAN is built on a ring topology, where each device is connected to two others, forming a continuous loop or ‘ring.’ It’s like our round table in the meeting analogy. The token travels around this ring, providing an organized, turn-by-turn communication system.

This kind of network is great at avoiding data collisions – those awkward moments in meetings when two people start talking at the same time. By waiting for the token, each device gets a chance to ‘speak’ without being interrupted.

Now, you might be wondering, “If it’s so efficient, why don’t we use Token Ring LANs everywhere?” Well, much like a formal meeting, Token Ring LANs are more structured and methodical, but they can also be slower compared to their Ethernet counterparts. Waiting for the token to come around can take time, and if a device has nothing to say (or no data to send), the token just keeps moving.

Despite these drawbacks, Token Ring LANs played a pivotal role in the development of network technologies and hold a unique place in networking history. While they’ve largely been replaced by faster Ethernet and WLAN technologies, understanding Token Ring LANs helps us appreciate the ingenious solutions engineers have developed to keep our digital conversations orderly and efficient.

So next time you’re in a meeting, think about the Token Ring LAN. Maybe pass around a ‘talking stick’ and enjoy an organized, respectful conversation, just like our devices do on this courteous network.


Just as diverse communities make our world rich and colorful, the different types of Local Area Networks (LANs) add variety and richness to our digital world. Whether it’s the high-speed Ethernet LAN acting as our reliable digital superhighway, the Wireless LAN (WLAN) providing us the freedom of invisible highways in the sky, or the Token Ring LAN teaching us the value of orderly conversation, each type of LAN has a unique story to tell.

These networks connect our devices, streamline our communications, and truly turn our homes and offices into digital neighborhoods. By understanding the types of LANs, we can better appreciate the complex, yet beautifully organized web of connections that shape our daily digital lives.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

Why would someone choose Ethernet LAN over WLAN?

Ethernet LANs, being physically connected through cables, often provide faster and more stable connections than WLANs. They are less likely to experience interference and can provide a higher level of security. So, for tasks requiring high-speed, stable internet, like gaming or large file transfers, an Ethernet LAN is usually the better choice.

Can multiple types of LANs exist in the same place?

Absolutely! It’s common to find both Ethernet and WLAN in the same home or office. Ethernet might connect stationary devices like desktop computers or printers, while WLAN provides mobility for laptops, smartphones, or tablets. The two network types can coexist and complement each other.

Are Token Ring LANs still used today?

While Token Ring LANs were popular in the past, they have mostly been replaced by Ethernet and WLANs due to their higher speeds and flexibility. However, understanding how Token Ring LANs work can give us valuable insight into the history of network technology and how engineers have tackled the challenges of orderly data communication

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.

Over the years, he has tested most of the best antivirus software for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, as well as many VPN providers.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.

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