Bandwidth vs Throughput

What is the difference between bandwidth vs throughput?  I will get into more details in this article below, but the simple answer is this:

        • Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data that you can receive over a certain period of time.

        • Throughput is the actual amount of data that was received during a certain period of time.

Bandwidth vs Throughput – How do we measure internet speed?

We measure our Internet speed by the amount of data that travels from the internet to whatever device we are using during a set period of time.

In reality, there are various ways that we measure internet speed. Bandwidth and Throughput are probably the two most used terms describing internet speed.

Although Bandwidth and Throughput are the major terms used, jitter, packet loss, error rate, and latency also affect internet speed. After I explain more about Bandwidth vs Throughput I will explain a bit about each of those.

Bandwidth Definition

Bandwidth – refers to the maximum amount of data that can be sent over a transmission line in a given amount of time. It is measured in bits per second (bps), megabits per second (Mbps – one thousand bits per second) and gigabits per second (Gbps – one million bits per second). The higher measured number equals more data transmitted. For example; a Bandwidth of 250 Mbps is one-fourth of the bandwidth of 1 Gbps.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) sell internet packages to customers that are measured in bandwidth. Most ISPs sell packages that offer bandwidth “up to” a certain amount.

Example of Bandwidth

An example of this is if you order the internet from an ISP company like Frontier or Comcast. They might offer you an internet package of 100 Mbps. This means the amount of data that can be downloaded from the internet they offer is “up to” 100 Mbps.

Here are a few examples of bandwidth requirements of popular things that most people do online.

Unfortunately having a high bandwidth number from your ISP does not guarantee fast network performance. There are a lot of things that affect the actual performance of your network.

That bandwidth will need to be shared by however many devices that you have connected to your network at once.

Besides the number of devices connected, The actual performance of the devices on your network is measured as “throughput”.

Throughput Definition

Throughput is defined as the actual amount of data that is sent or received within a specified timeline.

For example take the case of your mobile phone, how many messages were successfully delivered from the sender to the recipient in 24 hours?

For companies intending to monitor their real-time data, Throughput is a special aspect in data transmission you need to consider. If a lot of packets are lost during delivery the outcome will be a poor network.

Therefore it is important to ensure that all packets are delivered successfully to guarantee high network performance.


Bandwidth Example
It is the theoretical maximum network performance expected under ideal circumstances.  Think of this as a four-lane highway, it can potentially have one car driving in each lane at the same time. 
Bandwidth vs Throughput
Throughput Example
It is the actual amount of data used on your network.  Think of this as how many cars were actually driving on that four-lane highway at one time.

Let’s take a simple case of what happens in our daily lives to explain the difference between bandwidth and throughput. The amount of water coming out of a water tap is dependent on the size of the water tap valve this is “bandwidth”, but the actual amount of water that flows from the valve at a specific time is the “throughput”.

Network Latency, Network Bandwidth vs Throughput.

We can define latency as follows:

Latency refers to the amount of time taken for data to move from point A to point B. It is dependent on the distance, obstructions, networks and more.

Network bandwidth and network latency are similar and interrelated. Bandwidth being the theoretical amount expected for data transmission, latency is the actual time taken for each packet to reach its destination successfully.

Therefore, minimizing latency will help improve the speed of the network.

The measure of network performance is dependent on throughput rather than network bandwidth. Throughput helps network administrators discover the cause of any network slows down almost immediately.

Network administrators use latency, throughput, bandwidth, and packet loss to manage network performance.  Once the administrators have this data they can begin to isolate any issues that affect network performance.

Optimizing Throughput

The best way to optimize throughput is by reducing or minimizing the latency. The higher the latency the lower the throughput hence causing the network to slow down.

Latency mostly comes about when there are many users on a network. When users are performing tasks such as downloading and running applications with high traffic the result will be a high latency. You need to monitor all the endpoints of the network and disconnect users using lots of traffic. This helps decongest the traffic hence low latency.

For network latency testing you can use ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer.

Optimizing Bandwidth

Network bandwidth is not the same as speed, however, if your network is poorly optimized then the network performance will be affected. Let’s list a few ways to optimize your network’s bandwidth.

  • Remove non-useful traffic.
  • Updates and backups should be done when there is no traffic.
  • Quality of Service settings should be adhered to.
  • Cloud-base applications will help optimize bandwidth.

Network Jitter, Packet Loss and Network Latency.

Having defined latency, let’s know what is;

Network jitter – refers to the delays experienced during data transmission.

Packet Loss – refers to the packets lost during the transfer of data from a sender to the recipient.

Network jitter can be caused by various factors. When there are higher jitters packets arrive in disorganized form or without sequence rendering them useless. Take the case of a video call and there is high latency the call will be indecipherable.

What causes Network Jitter?

Outdated hardware – if you are using old cables, router, switch, and other network devices you can experience jitter. Ensure all the hardware is up to date to enhance network performance.

Congestion – If the network has a lot of people using it at once it can cause network jitter.

Poor Wireless (WiFi) connection – if the WiFi the network is out of range or has interference this will affect network performance. 

Packet Loss

Data packets can get lost or lose sequence during transmission if there is too much jitter. If the jitter is too high then a lot of time will be taken to reach the final destination when there is high latency.

In VoIP calls when packets are lost, gaps are created on the audio received. When packets are unable to reach the final destination this is referred to as Packet Loss.

Network jitter is greatly significant when it comes to companies that rely on real-time data such as VoIP calls and video calls. It is recommended that you have the minimum jitter for vivid real-time data.

Summary of Bandwidth vs Throughput

Bandwidth and throughput are closely related but are two different aspects that affect network performance differently. Both of them will ensure proper network performance and flow, bandwidth being the theoretical aspect of network flow and throughput being the actual network getting to the final destination.

Bandwidth is not “Speed”. The monitoring of the bandwidth and throughput will ensure a perfect network performance. Proper monitoring helps determine the reason why you are experiencing a high packet loss.