Bandwidth - Explained

What is Bandwidth?Bandwidth describes the amount of information that can be transmitted over a connection. As such, the term is a corpulent measurement, meaning it determines a rate for the total amount of data transferred (over a specific period of time) without accounting for the quality of the signal. Simply put, bandwidth is all about the amount of time it takes for information to travel—i.e. the term is used to detail network speeds. In doing so, however, it does NOT measure the speed at which information moves from one location to another.

Typically, the term “Throughput” is interchangeable with bandwidth; however, throughput is more of a sub-setting. Where bandwidth determines a rate, throughput details whether or not the data was successfully transmitted. That being said, throughput and bandwidth are NOT hinged on one another, meaning if one has a high rate the other does NOT have to match it (and vice versa).

Bandwidth is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). A user’s internet connection will have a huge impact on how much bandwidth he or she will use/require. Typically, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have a very high speed Internet connection. As such, they rent chunks of this connection to consumers (as its much more cost efficient for consumers to do this). That being said, a user’s download/upload speeds are determinant on the bandwidth of the connection between his or her computer and the ISP. For example, dial up internet connections typically have a bandwidth of about 50 kilobits per second (Kbps) (50,000 Mbps), which can result in elongated download/upload times. Inversely, a broadband Internet connection can account for speeds of anywhere between 128 and 2000 Kbps or even more.

Determining Speeds

As detailed above, bandwidth is all about the amount of time it takes for information to travel; however, delays in travel time and/or inconsistent speeds can lead to a number of issues. Latency, for example, refers to a number of delays commonly incurred while processing network data. As such, low-latency typically experiences small delay times, and high latency usually experiences long delays. High latency is also known as lag. In addition to network delays, inconsistent speeds can cause jitter, which is simply the variance in response time (latency).

Speed TestWith all that being said, users want to be sure their connection is running at its utmost potential; therefore, it’d be wise for users to discern their bandwidth usage. For example, if it takes 720 seconds to deliver 32,000 MB of data (32,000 divided by 720), the bandwidth is 44.4 Mbps. Users can determine this calculation by using a Speed Test. Speed Tests determine the download/upload speeds of one’s internet connection. In determining this, users will know if they need more bandwidth or need to seek out a different, more direct Internet connection.  

What Does Bandwidth Mean for VoIP?

With VoIP calls, bandwidth refers to the ability to transfer voice data (in the form of pakets) from one point to another in a specific amount of time; therefore, the speed of one’s Internet connection is absolutely crucial. Typically, the average VoIP call requires about 90 Kbps; however, there are some VoIP providers that give users the option of lowering voice quality to reduce the amount of bandwidth needed to about 60 Kbps, and in some cases, even 30 Kbps. While it’s often hard for many to discern the differences in these three qualities, it’s always recommended to use the highest quality, especially if bandwidth is not an issue. Voice quality is crucial with VoIP calls; therefore, users want to be sure they have enough bandwidth to support the highest quality at all times.

Bandwidth with VoIP also faces issues of latency, packet loss, and jitter. Here, Latency refers to the delay in time when data packets (composed of voice) are sent and received. As such, latency ultimately determines how long it’ll take users to receive voice. Additionally, Packet Loss occurs when one (or more) packets of data being sent across the network fails to reach its destination. This can occur for a number of reasons including signal degradation, hardware problems, too great of network demand, etc. Packets contain all the information needed for one computer to communicate specified information to another (the receiving computer). As such it’s crucial that all packets are delivered.

With all that in mind, it may be in one’s best interests to use a VoIP Speed Test to analyze the quality and performance of your connection and speed. VoIP deploys data packets to transmit voice over the Internet. As such, users need to be sure their connection offers enough bandwidth as certain connection types cannot support VoIP calls. For example, as stated above, dial up internet connection speeds are a paltry 50 Kbps. As such, this is NOT suited for VoIP calling. Inversely, other modes can sustain VoIP calls, but have other limitations. For example, ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) speeds range up to 128 Kbps; however they are more suited for fixed and dedicated service. It’s important for users to full comprehend their bandwidth, as having enough ensures the utmost speeds, and with VoIP, the utmost quality.

Related Articles:
- VoIP Codecs + Bandwidth = Your Call Quality
- Is Echo Cancellation Limited By Bandwidth?