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Network Topologies


A LAN (Local Area Network) is a Transmission system intended primarily for linking computers and associated devices within a restricted geographical area.
It covers an area of moderate size, such as an office block, factory or campus.

In practice, its size may range from a few meters to, in rare cases, tens of kilometers.


A WAN (Wide Area Network) is a network that is spread over multiple sites (>30Km). WANs are not limited in size (they can even cross the world). Public facilities (such as the public switched telephone network) are extensively used. However, this means that the rate at which data is sent is limited by the bandwidth of these facilities.

Common Topologies
Some common topologies include:

Mesh Topology

A mesh topology is a network in which the connections between nodes is random.

Fully connected Network with 5 nodes

Random Network with 7 nodes

Mesh topologies include fully connected networks and random networks (e.g. Internet). Redundant connections in random networks ensure that alternative routes exist for data.

Star Networks

A star network consists of a special central node (or hub node) to which host computers or terminals are connected.

Special Central Node

Any host computer can connect to any other host computer via the hub.

Star Networks

The hub switches messages through to the appropriate destination. The hub may also provide a translation service for devices with different protocols. Star Networks are vulnerable, however. If the hub fails then the network fails. Star Networks may require a lot of cabling and can be expensive to install.

Bus Networks

A bus network consists of a single medium (typically 5 pair twisted-wire cable) to which all the host computers are connected.

Host Computers

Bi-directional medium

Network Interface Units


Packets are broadcasted on the medium to all nodes on the network.

Tree Networks

A tree network (as used in LANs) is a variant of the Bus topology.

Root Node

Host Computers

Communications Link

Nodes are connected in a tree structure and messages are broadcast across whole tree.

Tree Networks

Tree topologies have the advantage that they are easy to expand. Furthermore, if a fault occurs, the effected branch can be easily isolated so that the rest of the network is not effected. The disadvantage is that signals can be reflected from the ends of branches and cause interference. For this reason, Tree Networks are usually run at lower speeds.