Difference between Bandwidth and Throughput

Computer EngineeringComputer NetworkDifferences

Bandwidth and Throughput are frequently used terms in telecommunications and sometimes we tend to use them as synonyms, but there's a subtle difference between these two terms.

Bandwidth refers to the data capacity of a channel. It is defined as the total amount of data which can be transferred over a network in a specific period of time. Throughput, on the other hand, refers to the exact measurement of data transferred in a specific time period. It is also termed as "effective data rate" or "payload rate". Every network connection has a throughput, which explains how bits are transmitted across a network and the number of bits per second that a link can transmit.

Read through this article to find out more about Bandwidth and Throughput and how they are different from each other.

What is Bandwidth?

Bandwidth is the quantity of data that can be transferred over a network in a given amount of time. It refers to the network/transmission medium's data carrying capability. In computing, the maximum pace of data flow via a particular route is known as the bandwidth. Network bandwidth, data bandwidth, and digital bandwidth are all examples of bandwidth.

Bandwidth also refers to the frequency range between the lowest and highest attainable frequency. Analog signal bandwidth is measured in Hertz.

It is always better to have a wide bandwidth because it enables more users/subscribers to access the network at the same time with lesser traffic or network congestion.

What is Throughput?

Throughput is the measurement of the amount of data being transmitted across a network, interface, or channel in a given length of time. Throughput is also known as "effective data rate" or "payload rate". In general, throughput refers to the pace at which something is produced or processed.

Throughput, also known as "network throughput", is the rate of successful message transmission through a communication channel in communication networks such as Ethernet or packet radio. The data included in these messages may be transmitted through a physical or logical link, or it may transit through a network node.

The most common unit of measurement for throughput is bits per second (bit/s or bps), although it may also be measured in data packets per second (p/s or PPS) or data packets per time slot.

The sum of the data rates delivered to all terminals in a network is known as its "system throughput" or "aggregate throughput". Throughput is basically equivalent to digital bandwidth consumption; it can be calculated mathematically using the queueing theory, where the load in packets per time unit is represented by the arrival rate, and the throughput is marked by the departure rate.

If the bandwidth of a channel is 100 Mbps, but its throughput is 50 Mbps, then it specifies that the maximum data that can be transferred is 100 Mbps, but the channel is carrying only 50 Mb of data per second.

In practice, throughput is always less than the bandwidth. In the best case scenario, throughput can be equal to the bandwidth.

Difference between Bandwidth and Throughput

The following table highlights the major differences between Bandwidth and Throughput.

Bandwidth is the maximum quantity of data that can be transmitted through a channel in a specific period of time.
Throughput is defined as the actual measurement of data moving across a medium at any given point of time.
Measurement Unit
Bandwidth is measured in Bits.
Throughput is measured in Bits per Second.
Physical Layer of OSI model.
Any Layer of OSI model.
There is no dependency. Latency does not affect the bandwidth.
Throughput is dependent on latency.
Bandwidth is not impacted by physical obstructions.
Throughput is highly impacted by external interference, network devices, and transmission errors.
Speed of water coming out of a tap in a particular time frame.
Actual water flown out of tap in a particular time frame.


From the above discussion, we can conclude that Bandwidth is the total capacity of a channel, while Throughput is the actual volume of data passing through a channel in a specific time frame.

Updated on 10-Aug-2022 07:48:23