1.3 Computer Network and Types

Computer Network

A computer network or data network is a telecommunications network that allows computers to exchange data.

Types of computer networks

There are different types of networks. Namely: Personal Area Network (PAN), Local Area Network (LAN), Metropolitan Area Network (MAN), Wide Area Network (WAN) and Internetwork
types of networks
Note: KCSE Syllabus limits types of networks as LAN, MAN and WAN (students should stick with the syllabus)

Personal Area Network

A Personal Area Network or simply PAN, is smallest network which is very personal to a user. This may include Bluetooth enabled devices or infra-red enabled devices. PAN has connectivity range up to 10 meters. PAN may include wireless computer keyboard and mouse, Bluetooth enabled headphones, wireless printers and TV remotes for example. Piconet is an example Bluetooth enabled Personal Area Network which may contain up to 8 devices connected together in a master-slave fashion.


Local Area Network

A computer network spanned inside a building and operated under single administrative system is generally termed as Local Area Network. Usually, Local Area Network covers an organization’s offices, schools, college/universities etc. Number of systems may vary from
as least as two to as much as 16 million. LAN provides a useful way of sharing resources between end users. Resources like Printers, File Servers, Scanners and internet is easy sharable among computers.

Metropolitan Area Network

MAN, generally expands throughout a city such as cable TV network. It can be in form of Ethernet, Token-ring, ATM or FDDI.
Metro Ethernet is a service which is provided by ISPs. This service enables its users to expand their Local Area Networks. For example, MAN can help an organization to connect all of its offices in a City.
Backbone of MAN is high-capacity and high-speed fiber optics. MAN is works in between Local Area Network and Wide Area Network. MAN provides uplink for LANs to WANs or Internet.

Wide Area Network

As name suggests, this network covers a wide area which may span across provinces and even a whole country. Generally, telecommunication networks are Wide Area Network. These networks provides connectivity to MANs and LANs.



A network of networks is called internetwork, or simply Internet. It is the largest network in existence on this planet. Internet hugely connects all WANs and it can have connection to LANs and Home networks.
Internet enables its users to share and access enormous amount of information worldwide. It uses www, ftp, email services, audio and video streaming etc. At huge level, internet works on Client-Server model.
Internet uses very high speed backbone of fiber optics. To inter-connect various continents, fibers are laid under sea known to us as submarine communication cable.
Internet is widely deployed on World Wide Web services using HTML linked pages and is accessible by some client software known as Web Browsers. When a user requests a page using some web browser located on some Web Server anywhere in the world, the Web Server responds with the proper HTML page. The communication delay is very low.
Internet is serving many proposes and is involved in many aspects of life. Some of them are:
  • Web sites
  • E-mail
  • Instant Messaging
  • Blogging
  • Social Media
  • Marketing
  • Networking
  • Resource Sharing
  • Audio and Video Streaming