In telecommunications, bandwidth refers to the sum of data or information that can be transmitted in a given span of time. It represents the metric/rate at which data is being transferred over a specific system or channel in a given period of time, and it also refers to a range of frequencies to transmit a signal.
The bandwidth is expressed in cycles per second or Hertz (Hz) for analog devices, and bandwidth is typically measured in bits per second (bps) or bytes per second for digital devices. However, the term bandwidth is commonly used in reference to the internet: the data transfer capacity with an internet connection.
The analogy between bandwidth and a water pipe
Consider bandwidth as a pipe or a hose in a water supply system. The larger the size (diameter) of the pipe, the bigger volume of water you can put through it, the greater amount of water can flow through the pipe. Similarly, the bigger the bandwidth, the greater the amount of data can be transmitted through it. It depends on the size — as water is to the diameter of the pipe as data is to the available bandwidth.
However, there is a controlling device that ultimately restricts the flow of the water through the pipe or hose — the water valve or faucet. You can open or close the faucet to get your desired flow, increase or decrease the supply just enough to meet your needs and help avoid waste.
Similarly, some software tools like download manager help you deliberately control the amount of bandwidth which the program is allowed to use. This bandwidth control is extremely useful if you want the program to run, but you don’t need to keep the program running at full speed. For instance, you want to download a large video file from the internet, instead of downloading the file for several hours and exhausting all the available bandwidth, you could use a download manager and command the program to control the downloading by only a fraction of the available bandwidth. Certainly this process would significantly increase download time, but it would provide you more available bandwidth for other downloading activities such as video live streams and video games.
Another bandwidth control is bandwidth throttling which is set by some Internet Service Providers (ISP) to control internet traffic during particular times of the day to reduce congestion, or sometimes your Internet provider might control your available bandwidth if greater volumes of data are being downloaded from video Streaming Services or sharing of files. This software is used by some ISPs to limit your access to the Internet that requires a massive amount of bandwidth.
How much is your available bandwidth?
Your available bandwidth is a predetermined amount based on what you pay for. For instance, you may be able to seamlessly stream a high-definition video without any lag, but the moment you add another download request to the network (ISP), your predetermined bandwidth will be divided to each download request.
Assume that you could download a 3.5 GB video file in just an hour, but if another person on your network also attempts to download a similar file at the same instant, it might double your time to download the file. Why? Because the amount of your bandwidth is predetermined by your network and if they detect that you are downloading two 3.5 GB files (a total of 7 GB) at the same time, your ISP must allocate some of your available bandwidth to allow the other download — each download will get just their portion of the full capacity.
Now, the speed of your Internet does not only depend on your available bandwidth but latency (processing and transmission delays), packet loss and jitter are all contributing factors to poor performance in any given network. Other aspects that affect your Internet are old and outdated hardware, browser add-ons, viruses, and unstable Wireless Internet Services.
How much bandwidth do you need?
Your required amount of bandwidth depends on what you plan on doing with your Internet Connection Plans. For instance, if you intend to use your internet for browsing and occasional video live streaming, perhaps a small amount of bandwidth is just fine. However, you need a great amount of bandwidth if you have multiple users, a few TVs that will live stream, computers, tablets, cellphones and other devices to download massive amounts of data at the same time. Nevertheless, you could have Fast Internet Services, but if your end system, your network (ISP) cannot handle all of the flow of information, you’ll end up with a slow pace of data transfer to your device.
You can use a to know more about your internet performance and to help you determine if your ISP is providing the actual internet connection you are paying for, or there are other network issues in handling the data.
To know more about bandwidth and Internet Connection Plans for your personal or business needs, look for a reliable provider who can help you set up a system that best fits you.