Bandwidth vs Internet Speed: What’s the difference?
The internet is an essential utility in the twenty-first century. We use it for everything, from paying bills to buying the things we need. With all the internet’s usefulness, it’s important that we know how to get the most from it.
If you’re not a computer science major, you may not know what all the computer terminology means. That can present a barrier to getting great service. For example, is bandwidth the same as speed? While they are tied together, they are not the same. Bandwidth vs internet speed is a common comparison that causes confusion.
If you hear things like internet speed vs bandwidth vs throughput and get heartburn, read on. We’ll look at how the terms differ and how to get an internet connection that works for your needs. It’s not as difficult as you may think.
Bandwidth vs Internet Speed
How does bandwidth affect speed? Good question. In the comparison of bandwidth vs internet speed, it’s helpful to have a visual to show you how bandwidth works.
Think of your cable connection as a road. The size of that road represents your bandwidth. If the road is small, it gets crowded quickly. The heavier the traffic, the slower the speeds. That means cars (info) take longer to get to their destination. If you make the road wider, you can increase possible travel speeds by accommodating more traffic. With more bandwidth, you reduce congestion and increase your possible top speeds.
Even with plenty of bandwidth, we can still experience slow internet speeds. This is due to the differences in internet service plans. Buying the highest level service is akin to buying a sports car. With wide open lanes, you can reach top speeds. On the other hand, buying the lowest level service is more akin to buying an old beater. Even with wide lanes, you can’t go all that fast.
Bandwidth vs Internet Speed
Now that we’ve seen how they interrelate, it’s easy to determine where any slowdown may come from. Does bandwidth affect speed? It absolutely can. While bandwidth isn’t the same thing as internet speed, the two correlate. The more bandwidth you have, the faster your possible internet speeds. It’s up to your internet service provider to deliver both.
Bandwidth vs Download Speed vs Upload Speed
It’s not all bandwidth vs internet speed. When we’re talking about internet speeds, internet bandwidth vs download speed should be part of the conversation as well. Depending upon your connection, the two can vary wildly. A significant difference between upload and download speeds is not necessarily a reason for concern. Let’s look at what makes the two different.
Most of what we typically do online involves downloads. Whether we’re streaming video or scrolling through social media threads, that media is downloaded to and displayed by our devices. If your feeds load slowly or videos buffer, you’ve got slow download speeds.
Uploading is the exact opposite. When we post photos or videos to the web, we are uploading that data from our devices. Going back to the traffic analogy, we are driving against the traffic. Because of this, our upload speeds can often be much lower than our download speeds.
If you rely upon fast upload speeds, you can finally get them fairly easily. That’s because modern fiber optic connections provide nearly identical upload and download speeds. Older technology does not.
Factors that can slow internet speeds
Even with ample bandwidth, we don’t always get the speeds we want. If you’re getting slow internet speeds, there are a number of possible factors that influence how internet speed works.
Your Connection Type
Not all internet connections are created equally. Depending upon the type and level of service you choose, your maximum internet speeds will vary. But the difference between internet speeds isn’t the only thing that differentiates them. In the bandwidth vs internet speed battle, connection type is how we increase bandwidth. Here’s a brief overview of the four major types of internet service offered over the past few decades.
Anyone who lived through the nineties remembers being screamed at through our landlines by our computers. We used dial up to connect to the internet, and it left much to be desired. We couldn’t use the phone and internet at the same time, and it was incredibly slow. Like, 56 kbit/s slow. But, it was the only affordable option at the time. Luckily, we’ve moved on.
The one type of internet connection that’s available to everyone is satellite. No matter where you live, you can point your dish towards a satellite and get a connection. It’s an important means of connecting customers in out-of-the-way places. That versatility does affect the maximum internet speeds, however. Most satellite connections max out at 250 Mbps download speeds. Satellite service can also get spotty in inclement weather. To combat that issue, we turn to a hard wired connection.
Your next step up is DSL, or a digital subscriber line. This type of connection allows subscribers to get a high speed connection through regular phone lines. Anyone who is connected to the phone grid should be able to access this service. Max download speeds are increased to 400 Mbps with DSL. It’s not the fastest option out there, but it should be okay for surfing the web and checking emails.
The most popular option for high speed internet service over the past couple decades has been cable. Our houses were already run with the necessary infrastructure, and it boasts speeds of up to 500 Mbps. If you were spending your online time playing games or streaming movies, cable was a must. Today, we’ve got even faster technology.
The future of the internet is built on fiber optic cables. It’s the fastest on the market, and boasts a number of benefits that make it outshine every other available technology. In the war of bandwidth vs speed, fiber optic is king. Here are some of the reasons fiber optic internet is considered future proof.
- Provides gig speed internet
- Provides greater bandwidth than any other technology
- Identical upload and download speeds
- Preserves data integrity over long distances
Too Many Connected Devices
In the same way, opening all your faucets decreases water pressure, and too many devices reduces your internet speeds. If your family is streaming videos on multiple devices at once, your internet speeds will take a hit. Add in the connected appliances and neighbors who share your bandwidth, and you’ve got hundreds of faucets running. If the bandwidth in your neighborhood isn’t great enough, you may need an upgrade. Always balance bandwidth vs internet speed against your usage for the best value.
Bandwidth vs internet speed isn’t the only place we should look to improve internet speeds. If you’ve tried everything and your internet still seems slower than it should be, it could be your hardware. Computers, routers, and other devices are built to handle the technology of the day. If your devices are dated, they could deliver slower internet speeds.
Another reason your internet speeds could be suffering is due to viruses or spyware. Viruses, spyware, and malware often run scripts that can use significant memory. Check your computers for viruses regularly to ensure you aren’t exposing your information.
Increasing Internet Speeds
As fast as internet speeds have gotten these days, we always want more. More speed means less buffering and increased productivity. The first thing we need to do to increase our speeds is to determine the cause of our slow speeds.
Run a Speed Test (or Two)
The first step to determining where your bottleneck exists is to run some speed tests. There are a number of free services online, and some internet service providers offer speed tests of their own. One speed test will give you a result, but the more you do, the more accurate the results are.
Also, perform your speed tests with a wired connection. This will help you eliminate your router as the cause of the slowdown. Performing your tests at different times of day will help you account for increased usage in the neighborhood.
Speed tests will be able to tell you what upload speeds and download speeds you are actually getting. If those numbers don’t cut it for you, it’s time to do something about it.
Evaluate your Internet Service Level
Whether at work or play, more bandwidth makes everything we do online a whole lot quicker. So, how do we increase bandwidth?
Talk to your current provider
You may just need to upgrade your service to increase your speeds. Most providers offer multiple different levels of service. If your current speeds are leaving much to be desired, it may be time to level up. Also, if your usage has recently gone up, you may need more speed than you did before.
Switch to a new provider
If your current provider doesn’t offer the speeds you’re after, it may be time to make a switch. For example, online gaming and uploading videos require solid upload speeds. If you’re not having the experience you expect, even at the top service tier, you may need a new provider.
Choose the Best Internet Service Provider
Familiarity with the bandwidth vs internet speed debate will give you the tools you need to choose the right service. Be realistic about your usage. Also, take inventory of all the things in your home that use bandwidth. Some can be turned off or used sparingly to maximize your available bandwidth.
To ensure you have the reliable bandwidth you need, choosing the right service provider is key. Providers with better infrastructure can deliver top speeds and unmatched reliability. Reach out to see how affordable a great connection can be.