WAN Port on Router Explained – What is it and How to use it

The WAN Port, is one of the most important ports on your router, but where is it for? And how do you recognize it? The WAN port looks exactly the same as the LAN ports on your router, but there is a big difference between the two.

In this article, I will explain everything you need to know about the WAN port. Where can you find it and what are the differences with the LAN ports?

What is a WAN Port?

WAN stands for Wide Area Network which is basically the internet. The WAN Port is used to connect the router to your internet connection. Your ISP has supplied you with a modem that builds up the internet connection. But to distribute the internet connection through your home network you will need a router.

The router is connected to the modem, as you can see in the network diagram above. This allows it to access the internet. All your local network devices, like your computers, mobile phone, and printer, are connected wired or wireless to your router.

It’s the router’s job to route the traffic between your local network devices and the modem. This allows each network device to access the internet.

WAN vs LAN Port

Besides the WAN port, you will also find LAN ports on the backside of the router. Most routers come with 4 LAN ports and only 1 WAN port. LAN stands for Local Area Network and is used to connect your local network device to your home network. Devices connected to the LAN ports can see (connect to) each other, which is useful if you want to access your network printer or NAS.

WAN ports are only used to connect your router to your internet connection. The WAN and LAN ports look the same, and may even be placed next to each other. But internally they are separated with a firewall. This way devices connected to the WAN port (everybody on the internet) can’t access your devices that are connected to the LAN ports.

To sum up the key differences between the WAN and LAN ports:

WAN portLAN port
Connects to your (DSL, Cable, Fibre) modemConnects your local network devices
Labeled Internet or WANLabeled LAN or Ethernet
Only 1 port on your routerOften 4 ports on your router

How to find the WAN Port on your router

You can recognize the WAN port on your router by the label, Internet, or WAN. On most consumer routers you can also recognize it by the different color. In the example below, you see that the WAN port is colored yellow and labeled internet.

wan port router

The color isn’t the same on all routers. Some brands give the LAN ports a Yellow or Blue color or make the WAN port grey. So the color alone isn’t an indication of what type of port it is. The color is only used to distinguish the different ports on your router.

Router Dual WAN port

Some routers come with dual WAN ports which allow you to connect two internet connections to your router. Depending on the router these connections can be used for load balancing (splitting the internet traffic between the two connections) or for failover.

With failover is one internet connection used primarily. Only in the case of an interruption will the router switch over to the secondary WAN connection.

Normally you don’t need this, but if you have really slow or unstable internet connections, then using a dual WAN router can be a good idea. For example, the router below is a good option for small office and home networks.

DSL Port

On some routers, you will also find a DSL port. The DSL port is smaller than the WAN port, and you can only fit a phone line in it (with an RJ11 connector).

The DSL port can be used to directly connect your telephone (DSL) line to your router without the need for a separate modem. The router is in this case a router/modem combination and can build up the internet connection without the need for a modem.

If you use the DSL port, then you won’t need to use the WAN port. You can just connect your router to the DSL cable (phone line), and connect your home network devices to the LAN ports.

WAN Port is unplugged

When you see the status WAN Port is unplugged in your router then there is a problem with your internet connection. The WAN port is connected to your modem, so the ethernet cable between your router and modem and make sure that both ends are connected properly.

If the problem persists then try to restart both the router and modem first. If that doesn’t help then another good option is to replace the ethernet cable between the router and modem. Sometimes the cable or connectors get damaged which may result in a bad connection between the two devices.

If you have replaced the cable and restarted both devices and still get the message WAN port is unplugged then there is most likely a problem with your router or modem. Try connecting a computer directly to the modem, if it can access the internet, then the router is broken. Otherwise most likely the modem.

WAN Cable

The WAN cable that is used to connect your router and modem can be a normal ethernet cable. I recommend using a CAT5e or CAT6(a) cable for the connection. CAT5e can handle 1 Gbit per second over a distance of 100 meters. CAT6 can handle 10 gbit over a distance of 55 meters and then drops to 1 Gbit

Always use full copper cable, and not copper-coated aluminum (CCA), for example, one of these:

Monoprice 102136 Cat5e Ethernet Patch Cable – Network Internet Cord – RJ45, Stranded, 350Mhz, UTP, Pure Bare Copper Wire, 24AWG, 3ft, Orange
  • Unshielded Twisted Pairs (UTP)
  • 350MHz bandwidth
  • 50µm gold plated contacts
  • Color matched, snagless strain relief boots

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use the WAN port for LAN

No, the WAN port can only be used to connect the router to the modem. If you need more LAN ports then you need to buy a switch and connect the switch to one of the LAN ports on the modem.

What is a WAN Port

A WAN port is used to connect the router to your broadband modem.

Do I plug Ethernet into WAN or LAN?

You need to connect your home network devices to the LAN ports on your router. WAN is only used to connect the router to the modem.

Wrapping Up

I hope found the information useful. If you have any questions just drop a comment below. If you want to know more about setting up your home network, then make sure you read this article where I explain more about it.

24 thoughts on “WAN Port on Router Explained – What is it and How to use it”

  1. quick question: I have exactly the same architecture/config you show on this post. Is there a way to have a PC connected on one of the ethernet ports on the ISP modem to connect to a PC connected to one of the ethernet port on the netgear? the netgear is configured as a router using its wan port to connect to one of the ISP’s ethernet port. Thank you

    • You want to connect pc1 to the modem and pc2 to the netgear router? If your router is connected to the ISP modem on the WAN ports, then no, this will not work.

  2. The WAN port flickers a red color when using the landline telephone the other lights are all blue. Should this happen or is the internet being interrupted while I use the telephone?

  3. Ok I been trying to get my internet plug back in the rt. Hole. I have wan/lan. As on place and next to it there is one that says only LAN. ! Which one do I use . ? I been trying to figure this out since yesterday ! Please HELP AN OLD LADY WATXH TV !!thank you .

  4. Some routers have functions only available on the WAN port e.g. Bandwidth control. Is it possible to configure such a router so I can connect the WAN port to a LAN Port on the Router connected to the modem ?

    • That really depends on the router. On some, you can use the WAN port also as LAN, but if they have such specific features for the WAN port only then I don’t think it’s possible.
      I recommend switching over to UniFi gear, which will give you much more options.

  5. I accidentally plugged my Ethernet cable from my PlayStation into the WAN port? I realised my mistake a couple of minutes later .
    Seems all okay. But was wondering whether that could damage it at all?

    Thank you for any help or advice you can give me on this matter

  6. Thank you for clear information on what WAN is and how differs from LAN .
    Now I know what to do with my zyxel rooter and brand new fibre connection thingy ..

  7. Only using the WAN port to connect to the modem is incorrect. If you connect a WAN port to LAN port or switch you will have a second network behind the current network along with a second firewall behind your current firewall. Keep in mind these two networks can’t talk to each other unless you modify the routing table

  8. Is there a way to bypass the need of the modem? Like a switch or a converter? I have dsl and just the basic rj11 phone line running to my current modem. However I’m tired of paying rental fees every month and just about everything I’m finding as a replacement only has the WAN port.

  9. I have smart wiring at home. Connected ADSL line in the main cabinet to ADSL port in which I have the router plugged in through ADSL port.

    Can I use WAN PORT to feedback to main cabinet using LAN port next to ADSL?

  10. Having just received a new ZYXEL router to replace a Sagemcom one I wanted to know whether I needed to use the WAN socket. From your article I see that I don’t because I use the DSL one. Sagemcom doesn’t have WAN socket. Thanks for the article.

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