LAN vs WAN Ports: What’s The Difference?

LAN vs WAN Ports

When you carefully look at your router, you will see two distinct markings, labelled WAN and LAN.

WAN means Wide Area Network while LAN means Local Area Network and knowing their differences will enable you to understand your wireless router better.

So, what is the difference between a WAN port vs a LAN port?

Generally, a LAN port enables you to have a high-speed network that is easy to set up and great for small areas such as your office or home.

On the other hand, a WAN port is used to create a network that can cover large areas, can connect different LANs, and makes communication over long distances possible.

Typically, routers have one WAN port and about 4 to 8 LAN ports and if you are an inexperienced user, you may think that they are used for the same purpose, but this is not the case.

In this article, you will learn more about the uses of WAN and LAN ports and their differences.

What Is A LAN Port?

The purpose of LAN ports on a router is for connecting multiple computer devices to a central access point.

This enables the sharing of data and files among the connected devices using both wired (through ethernet cables) and wireless (via Wi-Fi) connections.

Typically, a home router features four LAN ports of the same type and color on its rear panel. This means that it can accommodate a network of up to four devices by utilizing these identical jacks.

LAN ports are essential when establishing a local network to facilitate communication between computers within a short distance and provide access to the internet.

However, if you aim to create a network covering a larger area, spanning a couple of kilometers, the use of high-bandwidth cables would be necessary.

In a LAN (Ethernet) setup, devices such as computers, mobile phones, and printers can easily share files.

However, when creating a large local network, a dedicated switch (or network hub) is needed to expand the number of available LAN ports.

This allows for seamless connectivity and communication between numerous devices within the network.

Pros of LAN

  • LANs provide enhanced security control compared to WANs, making it easier to prevent unauthorized access.
  • LANs are generally more reliable than WANs, ensuring greater stability and consistent performance for connected devices.

Cons of LAN

  • Local Area Networks (LANs) may lack flexibility compared to Wide Area Networks (WANs), posing challenges when expanding user or device capacity.

What Is A WAN Port?

The purpose of a WAN port which is positioned at the back of a router is to establish a connection with the modem.

This connection allows the router to access the internet provided by the ISP, enabling all associated devices to utilize the internet services.

The WAN port is typically physically distinct from the LAN ports, often differentiated by a different color for easy identification.

While LANs cover smaller, limited areas, WANs connect multiple LANs, over larger areas.

Typically, a router is equipped with a single WAN port. However, some routers designed for enterprises feature dual WAN ports.

These dual ports enable the simultaneous connection of two different modems, usually from different internet service providers.

This setup provides enhanced redundancy or load-balancing capabilities, ensuring a reliable and efficient internet connection for businesses.

The router manages your assigned public IP address from the ISP and provides security features like a firewall with port forwarding.

It also includes quality of service functionality, prioritizing internet traffic for improved performance.

Pros of WAN

  • WANs enhance data security by distributing it across multiple locations, minimizing the risk of data loss in case of a breach at one site.
  • WANs enhance an organization’s disaster recovery capabilities by facilitating data backups at multiple locations, ensuring data resilience and recovery in case of a catastrophic event.

Cons of WAN

  • Initially, the setup and maintenance of a WAN can incur significant costs as it necessitates specialized hardware and software.
  • Managing a WAN can be complex due to the maintenance of various permissions and authentication levels.
  • The speed of a WAN is often slower compared to a LAN due to the increased distance data must travel.

WAN Port vs LAN Port: How Are They Different?

WAN Port vs LAN Port Differences

1. Purpose

The primary distinction between WAN and LAN ports lies in the purpose they serve within a network.

The WAN port is specifically used to establish a connection with the modem, which serves as the source of the internet.

On the other hand, the LAN port is utilized to share that internet connection among all devices associated with the router, such as computers, printers, and mobile phones.

It is crucial for users to understand the difference between these ports when connecting a home router to the internet.

A LAN port is necessary for connecting multiple computers, while the WAN port is required to establish a connection with the modem, enabling access to the ISP network.

2. Speed

The Ethernet port lights on a device indicate varying data transfer rates. In a local network, data transfer speed is often higher than downloading data from the wider area network.

This discrepancy can be attributed to limitations imposed by the internet service provider’s plan and the connector itself.

For instance, LAN ports can support Gigabit speed, reaching up to 1000Mbps, while WAN ports are limited to 100Mbps.

Consequently, devices can exchange data swiftly over WiFi, especially with 6E and 5GHz frequencies, surpassing the speeds achievable on the 2.4GHz band.

However, this high-speed exchange is contingent upon the device network cards supporting such speeds.

3. Security

An additional distinction between the two ports is that WAN ports generally offer greater security compared to LAN ports.

This is because WAN ports are commonly utilized for connecting to public networks, whereas LAN ports are used to connect to private networks, which typically have lower security requirements.

4. Color

One way to differentiate between LAN and WAN ports is by their color. WAN ports are commonly designated as blue, while LAN ports are typically yellow or white.

However, it’s important to note that relying solely on color may not always be accurate. Some routers may have different color schemes or even reverse the standard colors.

To ensure proper identification, it is advisable to consult the user manual or seek guidance from an internet technician.

They can provide accurate information about the specific functions and purposes of the ports on your router.

Final Words

Hopefully, you now understand the purpose of your LAN and WAN ports and their differences.

Generally, most modern WiFi routers come equipped with one WAN port and at least four LAN ports.

The WAN port enables your router to connect to a modem and access the wider area network produced by the ISP, while the LAN ports connect your router’s local network to your internet-using devices.

If you have any doubts about the ports available on your router, consult the router user manual or ask a technician.

Daniele Besana

Daniele Besana

Daniele is a freelancer consultant with 15 years of experience in network security, customer support, Linux and Salsa. He worked for Juniper Networks in Netherlands, providing support and consultancy on security projects across Europe and Middle-East.

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