“Bandwidth” and “Speed” – not the same thing

 

"Bandwidth" and "Speed" - not the same thing

It’s terribly confusing that Bandwidth and Speed terms are used interchangeably as they are not the same thing. Bandwidth is the number of “lanes” available to your computer. It is typically measured in Megabits/second of Mbps or Gigabits/second or Gbps. Do the number of lanes affect the speed of your car? Typically no, unless it’s rush hour.

What matters is how fast you can drive right? That’s “latency” in the internet/networking world. It is dependent on a lot of different factors, including but not limited to, the speed of your computer, the speed of your network card, the speed/how busy your local modem/router is, the speed/how busy your local internet provider’s infrastructure is and then all these factors on the other end of the connection as well. The “bottleneck” in the equation defines your latency at that particular time to whatever particular service.

So how do your measure your internet connection? Well, take those “bandwidth” sites with a grain of salt – they are best for measuring the bandwidth received to match up with the internet plan your paying for. The best measurement test I’ve found to determine “quality of experience” is the Cisco Webex Network test: https://mediatest.webex.com.

It measures a bunch of different things for a video call, which is the most demanding application for most people. If you get all green, then you’re in good shape. It means you could run all applications from that location without issues (as long as the opposite party doesn’t have a bad connection of course).

Check out my own article on how to improve your internet: https://textor.ca/2015/03/forget-a-bandwidth-upgrade-try-these-4-things-to-make-the-home-internet-experience-better/ 

Others have written on this subject – try here for another spin on this subject: https://accucode.com/bandwidth-vs-speed-which-is-more-important-2/

Note: M-Lab, the platform/data behind CIRA and Google speed tests, has a visualization tool for average speeds located here (if it doesn’t work, try a different browser): https://www.measurementlab.net/visualizations/

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