Bandwidth versus Throughput
Posted on: August 8, 2018
High speed internet has become commonplace in recent years and there is a growing dependency on resources that must be utilized via the Internet. Since the commercialization of the Internet in the 1990s, there have been vast improvements to computers, internet connected devices, and access technologies. It seems that many aspects of our lives "connect" through the Internet. Our work, video, phones, banking, and shopping are often if not exclusively online. Today, service providers sell Internet services that have an associated speed or "Bandwidth." Bandwidth is the capacity for data transfer of an electronic communications system, typically the maximum data transfer rate of such a system. This might be a DSL or fiber connection with a modem or router connected at the end users location. Throughput is the amount of data per unit of time that passes through a network or to and from a computer. This could be the data from a video stream to your computer, checking your email, or making a phone call on your VOIP phone. Both bandwidth and throughput are both typically stated in megabits per second (Mb/s) or similar.
Information Super Highway?
High speed Internet bandwidth can be compared to a multi lane highway. More lanes on a highway doesn't necessarily mean faster speeds to and from a single destination but can reduce traffic congestion and delays. A 100Mb connection may be indistinguishable from at 20Mb connection for a single Internet user. Throughput is comparable to one car driving on the same highway. Its speed is restricted by multiple factors and likely does not reach its theoretical maximum speed at any time. An increase in the number of vehicles on the highway can cause traffic to slow, create conjestion, and result in delays, similar to what can happen with an Internet access connection.
Example: The HD video you are playing utilizes 3Mb/s of your Internet connection to play in realtime. If you have a capacity (bandwidth) of 20Mb/s you shouldn't have any issues streaming your video unless there are other factors affecting throughput and you can likely stream another HD video and/or check your email and shop online at the same time. However, if your computer starts to update during this time as well, your other Internet applications may seem to operate slower.
Common Factors that can affect the throughput for an Internet application:
- Bandwidth (capacity) of the access circuit you purchase.
- This is a factor if you have less than required for the applications you run.
- Network Congestion
- Number of Computers/Devices on your connection
- Computer/Software Updates
- Number of simulataneous applications sending/receiving data
- CPU/System utilization.
- End User Computer
- End User Router/Modem
- Remote end device (PrimeDay!)
Bandwidth vs. The SpeedTest
An internet speedtest site (like www.speedtest.net) measures throughput average over a short window of time between an enduser computer and a speedtest server. It does not measure bandwidth but can be an indicator of the achievable throughput between two points on the Internet (Consumer <-> speedtest). This sampling can give you an idea of how your computer performs in conjunction with your Internet connection. As internet access speeds increase, speedtest results can, at times, be misleading to endusers when used to determine bandwidth capacity of an Internet access service. This can be increasingly complex for endusers as home and business networks have more and more Internet connected devices that might be downloading updates even while unattended. However, these thoughput tests are generally useful and are easily initiated by the enduser.