What is Bandwidth and How Does It Work?

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Imagine you're on a video call with a friend, family, or work, and your connection cuts out. You're frustrated and frantic, trying to reconnect while figuring out what's causing the slow connection in the first place. If your videos are constantly buffering or web pages take ages to load, chances are you're dealing with low bandwidth.

What Is Bandwidth?

Bandwidth is the fastest rate at which your Internet connection can transfer data and how much data can be sent over your connection in a certain amount of time.

How Bandwidth Affects Network Performance

Let's say your Internet has a bandwidth of 1,000 Mbps and your cable Internet connection provides around 25 Mbps of bandwidth. When thinking about bandwidth, imagine the network connection is a tube and every piece of data as a grain of sand. If a large quantity of sand tries to move through a small tube, it will take a long time for the sand to pass. If you take the same volume of sand and try to push it through a wider tube, the sand will seamlessly flow. Translate this into data speak and it means that downloading will finish much faster with a high bandwidth connection rather than a low bandwidth connection.

Are Bandwidth and Internet Speed the Same Thing?

They are interrelated, but still two different things. Internet speed measures how quickly data is transferred from one source to its destination. Bandwidth is how much data can be transferred per second, as the example above highlights.

How Do I Check My Bandwidth?

You can check your speed here and see how many Mbps you are currently working with. It is helpful to know what Mbps speed your plan offers, and you can compare that number to the speed calculated by the test. Like a credit score, the specific number you see when testing your bandwidth isn't as important as the general range. For example, if you normally get around 30 Mbps for your download speed, but it drops to 5 Mbps during certain times of day, issues may need to be resolved. On the other hand, the difference between 31.23 Mbps and 30.89 Mbps is normal.

Can Bandwidth Cause Poor Latency?

Bandwidth affects your network speed. Therefore, the higher your bandwidth is, the quicker your download speed will be. This results in less latency but makes it more noticeable when it does occur. 

Latency measures a period of a delay, meaning the time it takes for data to travel to its destination across a network. 

Latency, on the other hand, is affected by factors such as distance, internet connection type, website content, Wi-Fi, and your router. 

Can Bandwidth Run Out?

The Internet will never run out of bandwidth. It can reach a maximum capacity, which simply means that data will require buffering and delivery will be delayed. 

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