What is a metropolitan area network (MAN)?

A metropolitan area network (MAN) is smaller than a wide area network (WAN) but larger than a local area network (LAN).

Learning Objectives

After reading this article you will be able to:

  • Define metropolitan area network (MAN)
  • Understand how MANs connect local area networks (LAN)
  • Contrast MANs with WANs, CANs, and LANs

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What is a metropolitan area network (MAN)?

A metropolitan area network (MAN) is a computer network that connects computers within a metropolitan area, which could be a single large city, multiple cities and towns, or any given large area with multiple buildings. A MAN is larger than a local area network (LAN) but smaller than a wide area network (WAN). MANs do not have to be in urban areas; the term "metropolitan" implies the size of the network, not the demographics of the area that it serves.

How are MAN networks constructed?

Like WANs, a MAN is made up of interconnected LANs. Because MANs are smaller, they are usually more efficient than WANs, since data does not have to travel over large distances. MANs typically combine the networks of multiple organizations, instead of being managed by a single organization.

Most MANs use fiber optic cables to form connections between LANs. Often a MAN will run on "dark fiber" — formerly unused fiber optic cables that are able to carry traffic. These fiber optic cables may be leased from private-sector Internet service providers (ISP).

In some cases, this model is reversed: a city government builds and maintains a metropolitan fiber optic network, then leases dark fiber to private companies.


A campus area network (CAN) is a large network that connects multiple buildings on a school or business campus. CANs may also be considered MANs, since they connect multiple LANs but are not large enough to be considered a WAN.

How does Cloudflare protect metropolitan area networks?

Large networks are subject to a variety of attacks, including distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Cloudflare Magic Transit protects networks of all sizes from attacks, while also accelerating network traffic and helping ensure network reliability. By offering cloud-based network functions, Magic Transit enables network operators to reduce their investment in hardware.

With Cloudflare Network Interconnect, networks can directly interconnect with Cloudflare for increased security and performance, either through a private virtual connection or through a physical cable connection.