Home : Technical Terms : PAN Definition


Stands for "Personal Area Network." A PAN is network of connected devices used by one person. It allows devices such as computers, tablets, smartphones, and smartwatches to communicate with each other.

A PAN may incorporate a number of different connections, including Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. For example, a desktop computer may connect to a personal router via Ethernet and a tablet may connect via Wi-Fi. A smartphone may communicate with a computer via Wi-Fi and a smartwatch via Bluetooth.

"Smartphone tethering" is a common type of PAN, in which a laptop or other device connects to the Internet through a smartphone's cellular data connection. If your mobile plan allows it, you can set up your smartphone as a "mobile hotspot" or "personal hotspot," which makes it function like a wireless router that is connected to the Internet. You can then connect to the smartphone from your computer or tablet like you would connect to a Wi-Fi router. Tethering may take place over Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or USB depending on the device.

Since PANs are designed to be limited to a single user, they are often secured automatically by only accepting connections from authorized devices. However, it is wise to double-check your connection settings to make sure that a password is required or that only authorized devices can connect, rather than "everyone."

Updated: November 9, 2018

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