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Throughput vs Bandwidth: The Keys to Network Efficiency

Throughput vs Bandwidth: The Keys to Network Efficiency

Throughput is the actual data transfer rate, while bandwidth is the maximum capacity or speed of a network connection. Learn how they affect network performance and internet...

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Do you ever wonder why your internet speeds seem slow, even when you’re paying for high speed and high download caps (that is, bandwidth)?

The answer lies in understanding the difference between bandwidth and throughput. Even though these two words are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Bandwidth measures how much a network can hold, while throughput measures how well it works.

In this blog, we will show you an understanding of throughput vs bandwidth, and how to measure network throughput to get a more accurate picture of your network’s performance.

So, strap in, because you’re about to discover how to maximize your network for blazing-fast bandwidth and throughput performance!

What is Throughput?

Throughput measures how often messages get to where they are supposed to go. It is a practical measure of how packets are actually delivered, not a theoretical measure. The user can find out how many packets are arriving at their destination by looking at the average data throughput.

For a high-performance service, packets need to get to their destination. If a lot of packets are getting lost in transit and failing, the network will not work well. Monitoring network throughput is important for organizations that want to keep an eye on the real-time performance of their network and make sure packets get delivered.

Network throughput is usually measured in bits per second (bps), but sometimes it’s also measured in data packets per second. Network throughput is measured as an average number that shows how well the network works overall. Measuring low data throughput reveals issues such as packet loss, which occurs when packets become lost in route (these can be devastating to VoIP audio calls where audio skips).

How is Network Throughput Measured?

A network’s speed can be measured in bits per second or bytes per second. Because throughput is what the end user receives, files are typically measured in bytes, making them easier to grasp. Many megabits per second, or Mbps, are prevalent. You should use a tool to generate realistic network traffic patterns and assess both upstream and downstream throughput to accurately estimate network performance. Run testing when the network is operational to gain an accurate view of how it is used. Use a large number of test points and test at various times of the day to see how users use the site in various ways. Many tools, such as iperf, NetStress, NetIO-GUI, Netperf, NTttcp, QCheck, and others, can be used on many platforms to test network speed.

Why Does the Throughput of Data Diminish so Much with Distance?

The throughput of data diminishes so much with distance because of the following reasons. First, the energy (not the power) of the incoming pulse determines the likelihood of successful data bit detection. 

Though we can make the bit last longer (E = P x T), we can still get the requisite energy even if the received power drops off as the distance increases. A lower data rate results from longer pulses. As with the second, wireless throughput degrades with increasing distance. 

A client device’s throughput rate drops in direct proportion to its distance from the access point (AP). Since the AP’s bandwidth is shared among all connected clients, it naturally decreases as more users join the network. Finally, networks optimize cost by establishing shared pathways for data transmission between nodes or by linking nodes via routers and switches.

What is Bandwidth?

The term “bandwidth” refers to the amount of data that may be transferred via an internet connection in a given amount of time. It is often stated in terms of its transfer rate in bits per second (bps), with greater numbers denoting higher rates (Gbps). The amount of information that may be transferred from one location in a network to another in a certain amount of time is referred to as bandwidth. There is a distinction to be made between bandwidth and data transfer rate. Data transfer rate indicates how rapidly data can be delivered across a connection, whereas bandwidth describes how much data can be sent across a connection at once.

Requirement of bandwidth for different services
Source: Requirement of bandwidth for different services

Bandwidth and Speed Aren’t the Same Thing

Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data that can be sent over the internet in a certain amount of time. It is usually measured in bits per second (bps), such as megabits per second (Mbps) or gigabits per second (Gbps). 

Speed, on the other hand, is how quickly data moves from one place in a network to another. Most of the time, it is measured in milliseconds (ms) or seconds (s). 

Bandwidth says how much data can be sent and received at once, but speed says how fast these packets actually get to their destination.

Throughput vs Bandwidth: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to data transfer, the terms bandwidth and throughput are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to two different concepts. Understanding the difference between bandwidth and throughput can be crucial for optimizing network performance and avoiding bottlenecks.

The following is a throughput vs bandwidth comparison which helps you get a better understanding of them.

Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data that can be transmitted over an internet connection in a given amount of time.Throughput refers to the actual amount of data transmitted and processed throughout the network.
Bandwidth is the theoretical maximum speed of a connection.Throughput is the actual speed at which data is transferred.
Bandwidth is measured in bits per second (bps)Throughput is measured in bits per second (bps) or packets per second (pps).

Where does Latency Fit with Bandwidth and Throughput?

Bandwidth and throughput are frequently used to characterize network speed, yet speed is mostly determined by network latency. Latency is the time it takes for a data packet to transit from one point in the network to another, from sender to receiver.

Latency is sometimes quantified as round-trip time, which includes the time it takes for a packet to travel from its origin point to its destination point. If the latency is low, this implies a delay, often known as lag. Latency concerns are frequently more noticeable in high-bandwidth networks.

The relationship between Latency , throughput and Bandwidth
Source: The relationship between Latency, throughput, and Bandwidth
Interested in deep diving more information on Latency and Throughput? I have just the right blog which all the information is detail on Latency and Throughput 

Why are Network Bandwidth and Throughput Important?

Though throughput vs bandwidth has a clear demarcation, they do play a role with one another. The throughput number shows how well the network meets that standard. Other metrics, like latency, also show how well a network works and can affect the bandwidth and throughput of the network.

When building networks, network engineers must take both metrics into account to make sure they can handle the expected amount of traffic and still work well. 

To put it another way, bandwidth gives you a theoretical measure of the most packets that can be transferred, while throughput tells you how many packets are actually being transferred. As a result, throughput is a better way to measure how well a network works than bandwidth.

Characteristics of Bandwidth and throughput
Source: Characteristics of Bandwidth and throughput

The Bottom line

In a nutshell, bandwidth measures a network’s capacity, whereas throughput measures its actual performance. 

Throughput is the rate at which messages arrive at their destination successfully and is critical for evaluating real-time performance and packet delivery. Network throughput is measured in bits or bytes per second and must be tested under normal network operating conditions. Latency is another major aspect that influences network performance and is measured as the amount of time it takes a data packet to transit from one place to another. 

While bandwidth and latency are not always related, network professionals use both measurements to evaluate network performance.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the Difference Between Delay and Latency?

People often use the words delay and latency interchangeably, but there is a small difference between the two. Latency is the total amount of time it takes to send a message. Propagation delay is the amount of time it takes for the first bit to travel over a link between the sender and the receiver.

2. What is the Difference Between Throughput and Goodput?

Throughput is the total quantity of data transferred through a network, including overhead data, whereas goodput is the amount of useful data transmitted minus overhead data. Both are measured in bits per second (bps), but goodput is a more accurate representation of the effective data transfer rate.

3. What is the Difference Between Throughput and Bit Rate?

The amount of data communicated via a network in a given time is referred to as throughput, whereas bit rate is the number of bits transmitted per unit of time. Throughput considers network overhead and protocol-specific data, whereas bit rate is a direct measure of data transfer speed.

Disclaimers: Opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). They do not necessarily purport to reflect the opinions or views of Shardeum Foundation.

About the AuthorAnuska is an independent freelance writer freshly exploring web3 and blockchain space. Her articles blend personal exploration with established editorial methods, and she’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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