PAN (Personal Area Network) Definition & Overview

A personal area network (or PAN) allows you to connect electronic devices. Some PAN methods involve wires and cords, but others rely on wireless technology. 

A PAN (sometimes called a PAN network, which is a bit redundant) is small. Connected devices are typically quite close to one another.

What is a PAN?

The average person is surrounded by a web of connected devices all day long. Your phone, your computer, your speakers, and even your appliances are capable of reaching out to one another. A PAN makes that possible. 

For example, your home office likely contains a PAN. A cord connects your computer to your printer. And wireless headphones connect you with the audio of the Zoom meeting you're attending on your computer.

Bluetooth PAN and other wireless options 

If your devices connect without any wires or cords, you're working within a wireless personal area network, or WPAN. 

Bluetooth is the most common wireless option, and most people know about this technology. For example, more than half of American consumers surveyed in 2016 had bought a Bluetooth device in the year prior

But Bluetooth isn't the only WPAN option out there. ZigBee, for example, is gaining traction among people who want to connect more than two devices. People find ZigBee useful if they want a fully connected home with appliances that talk to one another and a home base.

Wired PAN types 

A wireless network is meant to free us from the tyranny of cords. But some people miss familiar devices like headphones when companies change technology and remove them. A wired PAN might work better for them. 

Wired PAN options include:

  • USB
  • FireWire 
  • Thunderbolt 

If you've ever physically plugged one device into another with a cord or a wire, you've used a PAN. 

Some consumers prefer wired PAN. Hackers can, and sometimes do, enter wireless networks and share more data than they intend to. If you're interested in finding out more about this and other data privacy risks everyday consumers face, check out this blog post


Consumer Survey Highlights Necessity of Bluetooth Technology. (April 2016). Bluetooth. 

What Is ZigBee and What Devices Can It Work With Within the Smart Home? (December 2019). Smarthome News.

I Still Miss My Headphone Jack, and I Want It Back. (November 2018). Fast Company.