Types of Networks in FE Electrical

Different topologies and types of networks in FE Electrical comprise an interconnected system of electronic and digital components, each playing a unique role in the flow and manipulation of electrical signals as data. These networks form the backbone of modern computer networks we see today.

Mastering the types of networks in FE Electrical is crucial for exam success, as it forms a fundamental component of the electrical and computer engineering curriculum by NCEES®.

Moreover, proficiency in understanding computer networks for the NCEES® Electrical FE Exam, including network topologies like local area networks, etc, opens doors to various career opportunities.

This study guide will help you cover different types of networks in FE Electrical that you must know to ace your NCEES® FE Exam.

Different Types of Networks

There are different types of networks based on the area they influence regarding network coverage that we will cover in this section.

Before moving forward, it is recommended to read about network topologies – types of networks based on node connection and layout.

The commonly used and renowned types of networks in FE Electrical include:

  1. Local Area Network (LAN)
  2. Wide Area Network (WAN)
  3. Internet

Let’s discuss these in detail.

1. Local Area Network (LAN)

local area network

A Local Area Network (LAN) is a network of interconnected computers and devices within a limited geographic area, such as a single building, campus, or office. LANs are designed to facilitate the sharing of resources, data, and applications among connected devices.

Components and Layout of LAN

The components of a LAN include computers, servers, routers, switches, hubs, and network cables. These components are interconnected to create a network that allows the devices to communicate with each other.

Computers and Devices

Computers within a LAN are equipped with network interface cards (NICs) to enable communication over the network. Other devices like printers, scanners, and storage devices may also be connected to the LAN.

Network Cables

Ethernet cables are commonly used to connect devices within a LAN physically. These cables transmit data using the Ethernet protocol.


Switches are used to create a switched network. Unlike hubs, switches are intelligent devices that forward data only to the specific intended device, reducing network congestion.


Routers connect different LANs or enable communication between a LAN and a Wide Area Network (WAN). They operate at the network layer and decide where to send data based on IP addresses.

Information Flow in LAN

The flow of information between nodes in a LAN follows the OSI model, with data encapsulated at each layer. When a device wants to communicate with another on the same LAN, it uses the physical and data link layers to transmit data over the network cables. The network layer addresses and routes the data, ensuring it reaches the intended destination.

Efficiency in a LAN is achieved through factors such as high bandwidth, low latency, and effective network traffic management. Switches play a crucial role in reducing collisions and improving overall network performance.

Troubleshooting in LAN

Troubleshooting in a LAN involves identifying and resolving connectivity, hardware failures, software configurations, and security issues. Tools like network analyzers, protocol analyzers, and log analysis help diagnose and resolve problems.

Challenges in LAN

Common challenges in LANs include congestion due to high traffic, security vulnerabilities, and scalability issues. Managing and securing many devices in a dynamic network environment can be complex.

Why and Where to Prefer LAN Over Other Types of Networks?

A LAN is confined to a limited geographical area, typically within a single building or campus. In contrast, a Wide Area Network (WAN) spans more considerable distances, connecting LANs across cities or countries via a single source called Internet. On the other hand, the Internet is a global network of interconnected networks.

LANs are characterized by higher data transfer rates, lower latency, and more localized control than WANs and the Internet. While LANs are designed for internal communication within an organization, WANs and the Internet facilitate communication between different organizations and geographically dispersed locations.

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2. Wide Area Network (WAN)

wide area network

A Wide Area Network (WAN) is a network that spans a large geographical area, connecting multiple Local Area Networks (LANs) and individual devices over long distances. WANs enable communication and data transfer between geographically dispersed locations, such as different offices, branches, or cities.

Components and Layout of a WAN


Routers play a crucial role in WANs by connecting different networks and forwarding data based on logical addressing (typically IP addresses). They operate at the network layer of the OSI model and make decisions on the most efficient path for data to reach its destination.

WAN Links

WANs utilize various types of communication links, including leased lines, fibre-optic cables, and satellite links, to connect distant locations. These links provide the physical infrastructure for data transmission over long distances.


Switches are used within WANs to manage and direct data traffic efficiently. They operate at the data link layer and facilitate the connection of multiple devices within a local network segment.

Modems and CSUs/DSUs

Modems (Modulator-Demodulator) and Channel Service Units/Data Service Units (CSUs/DSUs) often interface with different WAN links, such as analogue lines or digital T1/E1 lines.

Protocols and Standards

WANs rely on specific protocols and standards for communication, such as the Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) and Frame Relay. These protocols help establish and maintain connections between devices across the WAN.

Information Flow in WAN

The information flow in a WAN involves data encapsulation at each OSI layer. When a device in one location wants to communicate with a device in another location, the data is broken down into smaller packets, each encapsulated with headers providing information for routing and delivery. Routers along the path through the WAN use these headers to direct the packets towards their destination.

Why Choose WANs?

WAN architectures are known for their efficiency due to their higher bandwidth, latency, and reliability of the communication links. Optimization techniques like compression and caching may enhance data transfer efficiency.

Quality of Service (QoS) mechanisms can prioritize certain types of traffic to ensure critical applications receive the necessary resources.

Troubleshooting and Challenges in WAN

Troubleshooting WANs involves addressing connectivity, data integrity, and performance issues. Due to the extended geographical coverage, challenges include latency, packet loss, and potential security threats. Diagnostic tools, such as network analyzers and packet sniffers, identify and resolve problems.

Common challenges in WANs include bandwidth limitations, leading to congestion and slower data transfer rates. Ensuring secure communication over long distances is also a challenge, requiring the implementation of encryption and authentication mechanisms.

Why and Where to Prefer WAN Over Other Types of Networks?

While LANs are localized networks within a limited geographic area, WANs cover more considerable distances and connect multiple LANs. On the other hand, the Internet is a global network that incorporates both LANs and WANs, providing a vast interconnected infrastructure for worldwide communication.

WANs are characterized by lower data transfer rates, higher latency, and the need for specialized protocols and equipment compared to LANs. The Internet serves as a global WAN that facilitates communication on a much broader scale, connecting diverse networks and devices across the globe.

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3. Internet

The Internet is a global network of interconnected computer networks that use standardized communication protocols to connect devices worldwide. It provides a vast infrastructure for the exchange of information, communication, and access to a wide range of resources and services.

The Internet is not a single entity but a decentralized network comprising countless interconnected networks, including WANs, LANs, etc, forming a complex communication web.

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World Wide Web (WWW) and the Internet

world wide web and internet

The World Wide Web (WWW or simply the Web) is an information space on the Internet where documents and other resources are identified by Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) and can be accessed via the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

While the Internet encompasses a broader range of services and communication protocols, the World Wide Web is a specific subset of applications and content accessible through web browsers.

The WWW plays a crucial role in shaping how information is accessed and presented on the Internet. It uses hyperlinks to connect documents, creating a web-like structure of interconnected information. The WWW has become a primary medium for sharing multimedia content, conducting e-commerce, and facilitating collaboration.

Components of the Internet

Network Infrastructure

The backbone of the Internet consists of high-speed, long-distance communication links, including fiber-optic cables, undersea cables, and satellite links. These links connect central network nodes and data centers around the world.


Routers are fundamental Internet components responsible for forwarding data packets between different networks. They use routing protocols to determine the most efficient path for data transmission.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

ISPs are organizations that provide access to the Internet. They connect end-users and businesses to the Internet through various technologies, such as broadband, DSL, fiber-optic, or wireless.

Data Centers

Large-scale data centers house servers and storage infrastructure that host websites, applications, and services. These data centers contribute to the storage and processing capabilities of the Internet.


The Internet relies on a set of standardized protocols, including the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), Internet Protocol (IP), and the Domain Name System (DNS). These protocols enable the reliable transmission of data, addressing, and domain name resolution.

Data Flow and Information Access via Internet

data flow and information access via internet

The Internet enables a dynamic data flow and provides unprecedented access to information. Users can access diverse content hosted on servers worldwide, including text, images, videos, and applications. The WWW, through hyperlinks, allows seamless navigation between different websites and resources.

Search engines play a pivotal role in information access on the Internet by indexing and cataloging vast amounts of content. Users can use search queries to locate specific information, and search engine algorithms prioritize and present relevant results.

The impact of the Internet on data flow and information access is profound. It has transformed how individuals, businesses, and organizations communicate, collaborate, and share knowledge.

The decentralized nature of the Internet allows for democratized access to information, fueling global connectivity and facilitating the rapid dissemination of data across borders.

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Accessing Information on the Deep Web

accessing information on the deep web

The Deep Web refers to parts of the Internet not indexed by traditional search engines. This includes databases, private websites, and other content that is intentionally hidden or not easily accessible. The information on the Deep Web is part of the larger Internet, but it is intentionally obscured or protected by various means.

Accessing information on the Deep Web often requires specific credentials, encryption keys, or knowledge of non-standard protocols. This intentional barrier and isolation ensure that sensitive or private information is not easily discoverable by the general public.

Information Flow in the Internet

The Internet operates as a vast, interconnected network of nodes. Information flows between these nodes in packets containing data and addressing information. The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) ensures reliable data delivery, while the Internet Protocol (IP) handles addressing and routing.

Operating at the network layer of the OSI model, Routers play a crucial role in determining the most efficient paths for these packets to travel across the network.

Efficiency, Troubleshooting, and Challenges in the Internet

Network Efficiency

The efficiency of the Internet is influenced by factors such as bandwidth, latency, and the reliability of network connections. High-speed backbone links, load balancing, and content delivery networks (CDNs) enhance efficiency by optimizing data transfer and reducing latency.

Network Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting the Internet involves addressing connectivity, packet loss, and security issues. Network administrators use packet analyzers, network monitoring software, and diagnostic utilities to identify and resolve problems. Quality of Service (QoS) mechanisms help manage and prioritize network traffic.

Network Constraints

Challenges in the Internet include security threats, such as cyberattacks, data breaches, and malware. Ensuring the stability of the global routing system, handling increasing data traffic, and maintaining compatibility with diverse network technologies are ongoing challenges.

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Differences Between Intranet, LAN, and WAN


An intranet is a private network within an organization that uses Internet technologies for internal communication. It is restricted to authorized users and hosts internal websites, applications, and resources. Intranets exist at the OSI model’s application layer (Layer 7), providing services like web browsing, file sharing, and email.


A Local Area Network (LAN) is a network of interconnected devices within a limited geographic area. LANs operate at the OSI model’s data link (Layer 2) and network (Layer 3) layers. Switches manage traffic within a LAN at the data link layer, while routers handle communication between different LANs at the network layer.


A Wide Area Network (WAN) spans more considerable geographical distances, connecting multiple LANs. WANs operate at the network layer, and routers are crucial in connecting different networks and forwarding data. WANs use communication links, such as leased lines and satellite links, to connect distant locations.

OSI Model Layers for Internet, Intranet, LAN, and WAN

  • Physical (Layer 1): Infrastructure including cables, routers, and network interfaces.
  • Data Link (Layer 2): Switches operate at this layer for local network traffic management.
  • Network (Layer 3): Routers handle routing and logical addressing.
  • Transport (Layer 4): TCP provides reliable, connection-oriented communication.
  • Session (Layer 5), Presentation (Layer 6), Application (Layer 7): Protocols like HTTP, HTTPS, and DNS operate at these layers.
  • Layers 5-7: Applications, presentation, and session layers host intranet-specific services.
  • Layers 1-4: Utilize standard Internet protocols and infrastructure.
  • Layers 1-2: Physical and data link layers handle local network connectivity.
  • Layer 3: The network layer is involved in routing for communication between different LANs.
  • Layer 3: Routers at the network layer connect networks over considerable geographical distances. 

Real-world Applications of LAN in Electrical Engineering

Understanding network types goes beyond theory, especially for electrical engineers. Networks play a critical role in various applications, facilitating communication and data exchange between devices in real-world electrical systems. Here, we’ll explore some practical examples of how different network types are utilized in the field of electrical engineering:

  • Local Area Networks (LANs): Industrial automation systems lean heavily on LANs to link programmable logic controllers (PLCs) with human-machine interfaces (HMIs) and other control devices. This setup enables real-time monitoring and control of production lines, robots, and other automated equipment. For instance, a factory floor LAN might interconnect dozens of sensors, actuators, and control units, fostering coordinated operation and efficient production processes.
  • Wide Area Networks (WANs): Power utilities leverage WANs to connect geographically dispersed power plants, substations, and control centers. This enables real-time monitoring of electricity generation, transmission, and distribution. WANs also facilitate remote control of power grid components, allowing adjustments to optimize power flows and ensure system stability. For example, a WAN might connect a hydroelectric dam hundreds of miles away to a central control center, enabling operators to monitor water levels, and turbine output, and ensure efficient power generation.
  • Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs): Smart grid technologies utilize MANs to connect various components within a large urban area. This can include smart meters at customer locations, distribution transformers, and data aggregation points. MANs facilitate two-way communication, enabling utilities to collect real-time energy usage data, manage peak demand periods, and offer time-based pricing options to customers.

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We hope you enjoy learning these different types of networks in FE Electrical and discovering their role in modern communication and computer networks, formulating a backbone of modern IT systems.

Understanding, troubleshooting, and analysing different types of network topologies and types not only helps you in your NCEES® FE Electrical exam but also opens doors to diverse opportunities in your professional life.

We recommend you check our valuable resources, FE electrical preparation courses, and study guides at Study for FE – your go-to place for FE electrical exam preparation.


Licensed Professional Engineer in Texas (PE), Florida (PE) and Ontario (P. Eng) with consulting experience in design, commissioning and plant engineering for clients in Energy, Mining and Infrastructure.