A wide area network is a network where a wide variety of resources are deployed across a large domestic area or internationally. An example of this is a multinational business that uses a WAN to interconnect their offices in different countries. The largest and best example of a WAN is the Internet, which is a network comprised of many smaller networks. The Internet is considered the largest network in the world. The PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) also is an extremely large network that is converging to use Internet technologies, although not necessarily through the public Internet.
A Wide Area Network involves communication through the use of a wide range of different technologies. These technologies include Point-to-Point WANs such as Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) and High-Level Data Link Control (HDLC), Frame Relay, ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) and Sonet (Synchronous Optical Network). The difference between the WAN technologies is based on the switching capabilities they perform and the speed at which sending and receiving bits of information (data) occur.
For more information on WANs, see Frame Relay, ATM and Sonet.