Difference Between VLAN and Subnet (With Table)

When it comes to networks and their strengths, a large number of people are often confused about the two terms VLANs and Subnet. It is very easily confusing as both are analogous and have similar characteristics; however, they do differ from each other in some key aspects of their functioning and specificity of action.

VLAN vs Subnet

The difference between VLAN and Subnet is that they differ in their broadcast domain layer. VLANs Or virtual local area network has broadcast domains at the L2 level while Subnets have different broadcast domains. Subnets have broadcast domains in the L3 layer, and hence this is where VLANs and Subnets differ.

VLAN can be expanded to be written as Virtual Local Area Network. It is a virtual switch. VLAN refers to a network of one or more LANs or Local Area Network which work under the specific subnet mask. This means it has a defined IP address and MAC address. It helps in partitioning the existing network.

Subnet or sub networking refers to the segmentation of a large network into smaller groups. Subnet refers to the small network of IP addresses connected through a similar subnet mask or code providing an efficient method of partitioning a large network.

Comparison Table Between VLAN and Subnet

Parameters of ComparisonVLANSubnet
Full-FormVLAN’s full form is a virtual local area network.A subnet is short for the subnetwork.
MeaningVLAN refers to a network of one or more LANs.Subnet refers to a network of IP addresses.
Determined ByVLAN networks are determined by the switch or router.Subnets are determined by the IP address of the user.
Based OnVLAN is a software-based network.A subnet is a hardware-based network.
SpeedVLAN networks have more speed.Subnet have comparatively lower speeds.
RangeVLAN networks have a larger range.Subnet have a narrower range.

What is VLAN?

Virtual local area networks or commonly called VLANs, refer to a local connection established between two or more local area networks or LANs. The connection is not a physical one, but a virtual one meaning no wires are connecting two or more switches, but the switch is itself physically and logically by gates, and hence the network gets the name virtual local area network.

When a VLAN network is set, it is much more controllable by the user as the network is determined by the router or switch, giving more access to its security and other properties making it more secure. However, the network domain of a VLAN is at the L2 level, while that of a subnet is that at the L3 level.

An L2 level domain means VLANs having the same VLAN identifier can communicate with each other. To communicate with other VLANs, they have to again take the help of IP addressing. This is the reason why the confusion between the two arises. For inter-VLAN communications, subnets are required. Hence VLANs are a type of subnet.

However, VLAN networks are flexible and show less traffic congestion as efficient segmentation of traffic takes place at the switch. It is secure and has a larger range of networks, and supports many devices at once. Hence VLAN networks are preferred in areas needing connectivity for a large number of devices like offices and enterprises.

What is Subnet?

Sub networking or subnetworks are a small group of IP or Internet Protocol addresses connected to establish a network between the devices that are defined by the same subnet mask. Every device has an interface with which it interacts with other devices. Each interface has an IP address. To receiver information from the internet, one must possess an IP address.

When a router is connected to a large number of devices. The router has its IP address, and the devices with it connect also have their IP addresses. Usually, the first 24 digits out of their 32 bit IP address remains the same for a given Subnet. This 24 but IP address refers to a Subnet mask.

A Subnet essentially workspaces a physical network into many parts accessible to the user. The network is determined by the IP address of the user and the switch. This Subnetting is mainly a hardware-based technology. The access to a Subnet remains limited as the IP address of devices has always been fixed, and the range also remains narrow, and flexibility is also reduced.

The Subnet network works at the interface layer, which means the L3 layer. This means it can connect to VLANs outside the physical network as well. This is the main difference between a VLAN and a Subnet.

Main Differences Between VLAN and Subnet

  1. VLAN networks have a large range of actions and hence are preferred in large workspaces, whereas subnets have a limited range of networks.
  2. VLANs are more flexible and customizable in comparison to subnets.
  3. VLANs establish an intra– VLAN communication which subnets establish an inter – VLAN communication.
  4. VLANs work on the data link layer or L2 layer of the broadcast domain, while Subnets work on the interface layer or L3 layer of the broadcast domain.
  5. VLAN networks are more secure in comparison to Subnets.
  6. VLANs focuses on MAC addresses while sub networking focuses on IP addresses and hence have different methods of communication.


The choice of VLAN of Subnet as the network domain in your workplace depends on the type of works and the duty of work. For larger areas and more devices, VLAN networks are preferred. Also, in the case of enterprises with various departments, VLAN networks are good at securely portioning the network for less traffic and easier use.

For smaller spaces, Subnets are sufficient. However, most places today use VLAN networks that work with the interface layer as well which means they are a part of a Subnet network as well such that they can communicate easily with multiple devices and still have security and flexibility.


  1. https://www.scientific.net/AMM.241-244.2299
  2. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=
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