Difference Between Global and Local Network. In 2016, every second person in the world was using the Internet: out of 7.34 billion inhabitants, 3.67 billion had access to the global network. In Russia, it covered 70% of the population, and the scale is only likely to increase, albeit due to the growth in computer literacy among the older generation (aged 50 and above). 97% of young Russian citizens regularly connect to the Internet and have started to forget the distinction between the global and local networks and how the latter is used.


The Global Computing Network (WAN) encompasses an infinite number of nodes and covers an unlimited number of territories (usually referred to as the entire planet). Practically, for all PC users, the only such network is the Internet.

The Local Computing Network (LAN) connects several computers within one or several organizations or territorial zones at a short distance from each other. The exception is the network of orbital stations, where the distance can reach thousands of kilometers.

The peak of domestic local networks in Russia was during the years of expensive access to WAN via telephone lines (remember 56 Kbps modems?). Today, only mobile operators mock users if they exceed their data limits. The content on the Internet used to be significantly “lighter,” and there was much less of it. With the emergence of many home computers, they were physically connected in local networks through the use of twisted pair cables and patch cords. Rows of neighboring multi-story buildings were linked by “local networks,” allowing residents to communicate, exchange files, and play games freely and for free.

The current relatively inexpensive access to the Internet and the almost complete coverage of urban areas by providers have turned wired local home networks into toys for tech enthusiasts. Wireless networks, on the other hand, usually exist within the confines of a single apartment and serve for fast file exchange between devices, of which people have many today: PCs, laptops, televisions, smartphones, tablets, and so on.

Corporate local networks, created for communication within specific organizations and limited territorially, are used just as actively. Primarily, they ensure information security, optimize management, and aid in production automation.


The primary difference between a global network and a local network, as evident from their terminology, lies in territorial extension. LANs are always limited, even though they can be significantly expanded. WAN, however, provides access from one node to another regardless of their location.

Naturally, the relatively small scales of local networks allow for the use of high-quality cables for their construction, guaranteeing high-speed data transmission. The global network also relies on optical fiber, but on a much smaller scale. Some places require using existing telephone lines, while others use wireless technologies. The risk of data loss in WAN due to these factors is higher, hence different methods of data transmission are used for protection. The packet delivery speed in a local network can be hundreds of times faster than in a global network.

The number of nodes in a local network is tightly limited, and the network itself has a specific topology. The global network, including the Internet, does not regulate the number of users. In both cases, each device gets its own unique IP address. In LAN, it’s called a private address and takes the form of –, –, –, in IPv6 networks – fc00::/7. All other IP addresses are external and assigned to the device for accessing the Internet. These are assigned by the provider, sometimes for multiple clients.

The functional capabilities of LANs include not only data exchange but also infrastructure management: printing, fax and text messaging, access to databases. In the global network, only packet transmission occurs.

From an economic standpoint, what’s the difference between a global and local network? Connecting to WAN is cheaper than building one’s own, especially an extensive LAN. A small local network at home will only require expenses for cables and possible node upgrades, while Internet access will require payment to providers. However, they themselves maintain their equipment. At the same time, any local network belongs to someone: a neighbor, a group of neighbors, a company, a library, a city administration. Accordingly, the owner can set their own rules. The global network is a public project, doesn’t have owners in principle, and every node participates on equal terms in its creation, expansion, and management.

It’s worth mentioning that the boundaries between local and global networks are blurred due to their combined use. The modern standard scheme is as follows: one device gets Internet access (often a router) and shares it with other devices connected in a local network. This allows for the advantages of the “local” in the process of file exchange.