An internet connection with low bandwidth will take more time to move text, video, or other files around than an internet connection with a higher one. Normally, bandwidth is expressed in bits per second, like 90 Mbps or 90 Mb/s. This would correspond to a data transfer speed of 90 megabits (million bits)per second.
What Does Megabits per Second Mean?
Consumer-type Internet connections use megabits per second (Mbps) as the most frequent measurement. If you know about the range of speeds available on the market, you don’t need to understand all the details of what a “bit” is. Internet speed plans can range from 5 Mbps to more than a thousand Mbps. Modern apps can use anything above 25 Mbps. If there are a lot of people in your home, you might find yourself struggling with anything lower than 200 Mbps.
We recommend using a free online calculator to see what speed range your household needs when shopping around for an Internet provider.
Speed and Bandwidth
There is actually a subtle difference between bandwidth and speed, although these terms are often used interchangeably by Internet providers.
Speed is the rate, at which you can upload or download data to a given device using an Internet connection, measured in Mbps (megabits per second).
Bandwidth is the maximum data volume you can transmit over an Internet connection. It is also measured in Mbps.
Experts on the subject explain this difference using a variety of metaphors, including the “freeway” and the “plumbing” metaphors. Basically, speed can be seen as the speed limit on each of a freeway’s lanes, while bandwidth can be perceived as the number of lanes on the freeway.
Just like a freeway, there comes a time when the number of cars will cause a slowdown or traffic jam due to congestion. Using only one lane means the car will have less competition on the trip from point 1 to point 2, but it won’t increase the maximum speed. To make our metaphor more to the point, imagine a data packet in place of the car on the freeway.
Another way we can look at this is by perceiving online data transfer as water in a pipe. The pipe width is the bandwidth. This is basically the maximum water (data) volume that can pass through at the same time. On the other hand, speed is the number of Megabits per second a given device can download using your network. The more accurate term for speed is “throughput”, or the rate, at which a data packet is “put through” to your device.
Ping and Latency
All the data you see has to be transmitted to your computer from a remote server when you access a site. Ping and latency make reference to your connection “lag”. Latency is the amount of time it takes the request to leave your premises, reach the server, and begin returning data. Latency can be perceived within the framework of a long-distance phone call. Do you know how you sometimes hear your voice echoing after speaking? That’s because of lag as well. Other times, you might interrupt somebody you’re talking to long-distance, also because of lag (it takes more time than usual to hear what they said). That’s just what “latency” on an Internet connection is, except not with voices, but with data.
How much bandwidth do I need?
The amount of bandwidth or speed you need depends on your household size, the purpose of use, and a number of users. The best way to find out how much bandwidth your home needs is to enter specific information about your household into the free online calculator of your choice.