Bandwidth

Updated: 02/07/2022 by Computer Hope
Tunnel or wormhole with data flowing in and out

When referring to a data connection, bandwidth, communication speed, or connection speed is the total maximum transfer rate of a network cable or device. Essentially, it measures how fast data can be sent over a wired or wireless connection, usually measured in bps (bits per second). The more bandwidth a computer has, the faster it can send and receive information.

For example, when connecting to the Internet using a dial-up modem, your operating system may display "Connected at 56 kbps," indicating a maximum of 56 kilobits of data is transferred every second. Users with a broadband connection, specifically fiber-optic broadband, can get transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps, nearly 180,000 times faster than a 56 kbps modem. Using a broadband connection loads web pages significantly faster than dial-up.

How does having more bandwidth speed up your Internet?

Having more bandwidth keeps your computer and other devices on your network from waiting for "space" through which they may send and receive data. You can think of it like a larger pipe letting more water flow out of a drain.

For example, a slow connection with a small bandwidth may cause a file to take a minute or more to download. While the file's downloading, your computer must wait until it's complete, making your Internet seem slow or causing other downloads to slow down. With more bandwidth, however, the file would download faster as there is more "room" for information to travel.

Another way to think of bandwidth is to imagine a two-lane road that allows cars to travel in one lane in each direction (download and upload). Getting 100 cars through this road would require them to line up and wait for the car in front of them. However, if you expanded this road to six lanes and allowed three cars in each direction (i.e., more bandwidth), 100 cars could get across the road faster.

Upload and download

Most broadband connections are asynchronous, which means different speeds depending on how data is traveling. A download speed or receiving speed is how fast your computer can get files from the Internet. For example, when you browse the Internet, you download files from a server to be viewed in your browser. Download speeds are nearly always faster than upload speeds with these connections.

The upload speed or sending speed is how fast your computer can send files to the Internet. For example, when on a video call with someone else, your video must be uploaded before others can view it.

Note

If bandwidth is shared with other computers, neighbors, devices, etc., you won't reach the maximum capacity reported by your ISP (Internet service provider).

How to increase my bandwidth

The only method of increasing your available bandwidth is through your Internet provider. In some situations, an Internet provider may offer different tiers of service that offer different levels of bandwidth. However, if your Internet provider doesn't have a higher tier level and needs a connection that provides more bandwidth, we suggest looking for an alternative provider. If no other providers in your area offer a faster connection, you cannot increase your bandwidth.

Tip

If you have a broadband connection shared between people in your house, you can request they stop doing their Internet activity to increase your bandwidth temporarily. For example, if you're getting interruptions with Skype and someone is watching a Netflix movie or playing an online game, having them stop increases your available bandwidth.

Baseband, BPS, Data transfer, Download, Downstream, Modem, Network terms, Phone terms, Speed, Upload, Upload/download