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Bandwidth vs Latency vs Throughput: What’s the Difference

bandwidth vs latency

Residential and business Internet users desire one thing the most – fast Internet speed. Before today, if you thought higher bandwidth translates to more speed, this blog will serve as a reality check for you.

Network speed constitutes of various factors. It’s not just about bandwidth. Latency and throughput have a role to play in performance as well. To have a deeper understanding of these factors, let’s look into them in detail:

What is Bandwidth?

Bandwidth is the measure of the amount of data transferred over the communication band at a given time. When the term bandwidth as invented, it was measured in bits per second (bps) whereas modem networks now have a greater capacity and they are measured in megabits per second and gigabits per second.

Each byte contains 8 bits. If your connection offers 20 Mbps bandwidth, this doesn’t mean it will take one second to download a 20 MB file. It’s going to take 8 seconds because a 20 MB file contains 160 megabits.

What is Latency?

Latency is the amount of time taken by a signal to travel to the destination and back. In most cases, the destination is the server of the Internet Service Provider.

Whenever a user puts a request on the Internet such as sending an email or scrolling through social media, the ISP sends a signal to the server for retrieving information and brings it back to the user. This happens very quickly, which is why latency is measured in milliseconds.

The lower the latency, the better. This means there will be a minimum delay between the action taken and the result displayed. So this implies if the latency is higher, it will take a long time to see the results.

What is Throughput?

Throughput measures the amount of data a PC is capable of processing on the network. It measures the rate at which a message arrives at the destination successfully. This is also a practical measure of the actual packet delivery. Average throughput defines how many packets are arriving at the destination.

On the surface, bandwidth and throughput look the same but these are two different terms, of course. To describe the relationship between the two, consider bandwidth as a pipe and throughput as water. The larger the pipe (bandwidth), the more water (throughput) can flow through it at a time.

Bandwidth determines the number of packets that can be sent or received between devices at a given time. On the contrary, throughput determines how many packets will actually get transmitted.

How Bandwidth, Latency, and Throughput Affect Speed

At a given bandwidth, to optimize throughput, you must make sure there’s minimum network latency. Why? Because latency slows down the throughput, which lowers the amount of throughput and results in poor network performance. To minimize the lag, start by addressing the bottlenecks.

The most common cause of latency is when too many people are using the network at the same time regardless of the download speed available. These bottlenecks are like network jams. To boost speed, choosing the best ISP offering the maximum bandwidth is not the only solution. You must also take care of the network bottlenecks. Here are some ways of tackling them:

Switch to a Wire Connection

Wi-Fi offers awesome convenience but wireless signals vary. An easy solution to reduce the lag is to use an Ethernet cable. It amps up the connection speed drastically.

Reboot the Network

If you haven’t turned off your hardware in a while, it’s high time you do. Often, the router and modem need a 5-second power nap to able to function optimally. Simply unplug them, wait for 5 seconds and plug them back again.

Upgrade the Network Hardware

Often, faulty hardware is the cause of a slow connection. Upgrade to new hardware and watch the performance of your network improve.

Upgrade Your Package

Upgraded your equipment already and switched to an Ethernet cable but the network issue hasn’t fixed? This is a sign you need more bandwidth. Upgrade to a faster speed to meet your Internet needs.

Switch Providers

If all fails, the last step in the book of solutions is to switch providers. Look for a better ISP in your area. Narrow down the fastest ISPs in your zip code and compare the pricing and plans. Make sure you know your bandwidth needs. Since you are switching, see if you need an upgrade. This could save you from a lot of hassle down the road.


Bandwidth, latency, and throughput have a lot to do with the performance of your Internet connection. Speed also matters when you are making decisions such as choosing between streaming service providers. Knowing these terms and what constitutes optimal Internet speed will help you make decisions that you won’t regret later.

With this newfound information, you choose the right Internet speed for your needs.

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