A Metropolitan Area Network or MAN is a network designed to cover a metropolitan area or campus and provide network access throughout the area. Many college campus networks would be classified as a MAN because they have multiple buildings spread out geographically, sometimes throughout the community.
A MAN is larger than a local area network (LAN) which would typically be found in a corporate office or even in some homes. MANs are also smaller than a Wide Area Network (WAN), which is a network that stretches long distances, often between multiple business sites within different communities. For large companies, the WAN networks they employ can cover the entire globe.
MAN networks use a different standard for communications; 802.6 as assigned by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which uses a different bus technology to transmit and receive data than most larger or smaller networks. This allows MAN networks to operate more efficiently than they might if they were simply LAN networks linked together.
The IEEE is the body that assigns standards to electrical or electronic technologies. The standard simply means that any items which are used in conjunction with a published standard will use the same methodology. When the IEEE creates a standard, input is received from interested third parties who wish to bring a technology to the main stream. The IEEE then uses a closed environment to test and ensure the standard will work as needed.
Many cities throughout the United States are creating or looking to create MANs to allow Wireless access throughout the city. Philadelphia has been working with this technology, as have New York City’s Central Park, and Google® within the community of Mountain View California.
Because of the huge growth of wireless technology and the increases in the number of Internet and network users, the use of MAN networks will likely continue to grow well into the future. Someday perhaps there will be a network that extends from coast to coast which may, if all connected to the same network, be considered a metropolitan area network.