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What is Internet Bandwidth: Its Importance & How To Measure It

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The Internet has been a significant catalyst in humankind’s exponential growth during the last few decades. When we talk about the Internet, we talk about internet speed, packages, Wi-Fi routers uploading, and downloading speed. Another popular term that we often talk about is bandwidth. However, most of us do not have a clear idea of bandwidth.

In today’s article, we will be discussing internet bandwidth and its working mechanism. If you are working from home and not satisfied with your internet speed and bandwidth, you may get in touch with Rango.

What is internet bandwidth?

Internet bandwidth is the measurement that shows the maximum transmitting range of a  communication link to transfer a certain amount of data in a specific time. Generally, bandwidth is measured using how many bits, megabits, or even gigabits of data that can be transferred or transmitted in one second. In simple words, bandwidth describes the amount of data that can be smoothly transferred through a wired or wireless connection.

A common error that people make is that bandwidth refers to measurement of the network’s speed, which is entirely wrong.

Why is bandwidth important?

At any specific place, be it home or office, only a limited capacity of bandwidth is available. Most of the time, the bandwidth may often get affected due to the limits of the network device’s hardware, including items like routers, the modems, the cables, or the wireless frequencies. In other cases, the bandwidth of a server can be intentionally restricted by an Admin or the Internet service provider themselves.

Several phones, laptops, and PCs will be set up to automatically connect to your network if you have a wireless connection. Therefore they have to share the bandwidth of that connection. Some big appliances like smart TV that can stream high-definition video quality, will use up most of the bandwidth. On the other hand, a webinar or a video conference call uses much less bandwidth.

Note that “speed” and “bandwidth” in relation to describing an internet connection cannot be used interchangeably. However, you must maintain higher bandwidth to maintain internet speed on several separate connections.

Bandwidth vs. Speed

Most of us confuse the internet speed, link speed, and bandwidth capacity.

Correctly speaking, internet speed is the rate at which data packets are transmitted through a link. On the other hand, bandwidth is the volume of the data that is being transferred.

How does bandwidth work?

The more bandwidth a data connection has, the more will be the amount of data that can be sent and received at one time. The flow of bandwidth can be compared to the amount of liquids that can smoothly flow through a pipe. Wider the diameter of the pipe, more liquid can flow at one time.

Bandwidth also works on the same concept. If the communication link has a higher capacity, more data can flow through it per second. The price of the data connection also increases as the bandwidth increases. So in simple words, it means that one gigabit per second of Dedicated Internet Access is going to be more expensive when compared to a data link that can handle 250 megabytes per second.

How do we measure internet bandwidth?

Generally, bandwidth is denoted in bps, or bits per second. However, modern internet connection links have greater capacity, and nowadays, bandwidth is expressed in Gbps or Mbps.

Bandwidth connections are available in the following types:

  •     Symmetrical connection: This simply means that the transfer of data for both upload and download are at the same level
  •     Asymmetrical connection: This means that upload and download speeds are not the same and will be different. This is the more common type of connection.

In most consumer-grade internet broadband connections, you will find asymmetrical connections where the upload capacity is much lesser than the download capacity. Most business and higher-level networks tend to have symmetrical bandwidth, while lower-level and local connections will have asymmetrical bandwidth.

What factors can affect network performance?

Apart from your networks’ maximum transmitting capacity, hundreds of other factors can affect the network performance. Some of the common ones are latency, jitter, and packet loss. These factors can potentially degrade the operating speed of an Internet connection. They can for a high-relay like a Gbps connection perform like a network connection with low bandwidth availability.

In most cases, your network’s path consists of more than one connection, each having a different bandwidth maximum. Therefore the link that has the least available bandwidth can be referred to as a bottleneck, as it has the ability to restrict the speed of all the connections within this route.

Therefore many enterprise-grade or business-grade networks use several links towards their main center, which act as their single-point connection. For example, some link locations with aggregated speeds of 1Gbps have an overall capacity of 4Gbps. But if these links don’t work properly, you’ll see the bandwidth maximum of the network be reduced to 2Gbps.

How do network providers and administrators optimize and control bandwidth usage?

Whenever a network connection is sluggish and slowing down speeds, the solution to the issue  is to increase bandwidth. This can realistically be achieved by increasing the amount of dedicated physical allocation the link will receive,  or by evenly distributing the traffic across the multiple available connections logically. But in some cases, these techniques might not work.

So network administrators or ISPs of a business network can adjust the internet speed. In most cases, they will throttle the bandwidth, which is an intentional decrease in availability of bandwidth to free up traffic. This ends up in lower-than-expected speeds across the network.

There are multiple reasons for using this strategy, including reducing network congestion in a particular link, especially on connections that are open to the general public. By using throttling, the bandwidth usage can be reduced for a particular class or type of user. In some cases, it has also been noticed that ISP reduces the bandwidth capacity to balance how much is being used across all the devices on the network.

Conclusion

In this article, we have discussed the basics of internet bandwidth. You get to learn the fundamental difference between bandwidth and internet speed. You can run a speed test on your network to see whether the administrator or ISP is using bandwidth throttling. Ensure you always have enough bandwidth if you have multiple devices using the Internet simultaneously.

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