Broadband: Latency and Bandwidth Are Not the Same Thing

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If you have been an avid internet user, time and again, you must have heard these two terms - ‘bandwidth’ and ‘latency’. Many people confuse them to be the same thing, but they are not. In the case of bandwidth, the more, the better, while in the case of latency, the lesser, the better. Understanding the difference between the two can help you get the most out of your internet connection. Let’s take a look at the definition of both terms.

What is Bandwidth?

‘Bandwidth’ isn’t just a fancy word for internet speed like many assume it to be. Bandwidth means the amount of data that can be transferred from point A to point B at a given time. Thus, higher bandwidth would mean that more amount of data can be transferred at a point in time.

When it comes to an internet connection, bandwidth is measured in terms of how much data can be downloaded to your device at a given time. One thing to note here is that the actual bandwidth your get will always be lesser than the total bandwidth of the network because of congestion and other factors.

What is Latency?

‘Latency’ means the time taken by the signal for going to the destination and travelling back. The computer sends a ‘ping’ to a remote server and measures the amount of time it takes for the ping to come back with the information.

Thus lower latency will mean that the time taken by the ping is lesser, so the results will appear faster. Higher latency would mean that the results on the screen take longer to come.

Whenever you put a request on social media websites or Google, a signal is sent from your computer to the server, which then comes back to the computer with the required information. The quicker this happens, the faster the information will load for you.

Applications of Bandwidth and Latency in Different Tasks

For doing the most basic of things today, such as gaming, video calling, streaming, and browsing, high bandwidth and low latency on the network is necessary.

Online multiplayer games such as Call of Duty: Mobile, PUBG Mobile, and more require less bandwidth since most of the assets of the games are already downloaded. But low latency is essential to enable real-time gaming. If there is high latency on the network, the actions on the game will not take place in real-time, meaning you will be behind other players and will have to face ‘lags’ or ‘delays’.

While in the case of streaming, ‘ping’ or ‘latency’ matters less, but bandwidth is essential since the data is being downloaded to be played on your device. If you are facing buffering issues, it is because of the low bandwidth on your network.

In the case of video calling, both high bandwidth and low latency is essential. This is because during video calling, high bandwidth is required to maintain the quality of the call (picture and sound quality), and low latency is required to keep the sound and audio synchronised; otherwise, there can be huge delays resulting in a horrible chat experience.

With browsing, low bandwidth would result in higher load times for even the most light-weight pages, and low latency would delay the opening of the page initially even though it might load it super-fast later.

These are a few of the areas where low latency and high bandwidth are important. Hopefully, you guys understood the difference between latency and bandwidth and why they are important for your internet experience.

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Tanay is someone with whom you can chill and talk about technology and life. A fitness enthusiast and cricketer, he loves to read and write.

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