Bandwidth vs. Throughput

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What is the difference between bandwidth and throughput?

You probably hear people talk about bandwidth and throughput pretty frequently when discussing internet speed. The words get thrown around so much, you might even think they are synonyms. However, they’re actually quite different things. Let’s look at those differences and try to put them into normal terms.

Geek speak: Bandwidth is the theoretical maximum amount of data that can be transferred over a period of time. Throughput is the actual amount of data that has been transmitted within a specific timeframe.

Normal talk: Imagine bandwidth as the width of a road. There are only so many cars that can actually occupy the road at once while all going at the same speed bumper-to-bumper. Throughput, on the other hand, is the actual, observed traffic flow.

So, if you were to narrow a road, you’d expect a lot of congestion and less traffic flow. The same happens with bandwidth as it determines the maximum throughput of a network. The more bandwidth (imagine more lanes) means higher possible data throughputa big improvement for the overall network performance.

What do bandwidth and throughput do?

Bandwidth and throughput are basically measurements. If you know your network bandwidth and throughput levels, you can assess if the network performance is in good condition.

With some test tools, you can even find out if there are any existing network speed problems. Tweak your internet settings, and get a faster internet connection.

How to improve throughput and bandwidth?

  • Throughput

You might have already noticed or guessed that your data throughput doesn’t always match your bandwidth. In real-life scenarios, interference factors like microwaves, Bluetooth signals, obstructions, interference from the neighbor's Wi-Fi network can reduce your actual throughput. These interferences act like roadblocks that lead to poor traffic flow.  

However, you can prevent such negative influences with some simple tweaks

  1. Avoid placing the router near a microwave oven or Bluetooth devices;
  2. Keep the path between your router and your phone clear;
  3. Change wireless channel in the router’s settings to prevent interference from nearby routers;
  4. As mentioned earlier, increasing your network bandwidth can make considerable improvements.

To know more about the reason why the actual throughput cannot reach the maximum performance, view  Why Isn’t My Wi-Fi As Fast As Advertised?

  • Bandwidth

An important thing to note is that bandwidth is normally shared by different applications like email, online gaming, file downloads, and 4K streaming. The more applications used at the same time, the more bandwidth you will need to ensure everyone in your family can have a good online experience.

To improve your bandwidth, you can try the following options:

  1. Ask for more bandwidth from your ISP (internet service provider). Since it would cost extra, we recommend clarifying your family’s bandwidth needs to your ISP and choose the most cost-efficient solution. Contact your ISP to learn more information.
  2. Enable a QoS or Bandwidth Control feature to utilize your bandwidth more efficiently. For example, your son downloads one of the latest AAA video games that takes up a whopping 30+ GB. If you wanted to enjoy an uninterrupted Netflix streaming experience, you could configure Bandwidth Control or QoS on your TP-Link router’s settings to prevent file downloading taking up too much bandwidth. Your kid might complain about “slow speeds,” but you’ll be able to sit back and re-binge all 5 seasons of Breaking Bad.