Understanding Internet Bandwidth

Bandwidth is a measurement of the amount of data that can be simultaneously uploaded or downloaded. In other words, a high bandwidth connection will be able to download the same data packet in less time than a slower bandwidth connection.

Why is this useful? Sharing large files, streaming video, videoconferencing, and sharing an internet connection between multiple users puts additional strain on the network connection – if the bandwidth is too low, the connection will falter under the strain of trying to serve the requested traffic.

Bandwidth is measured in bits per second (bps), the number of binary bits that can be transferred per second. Early connections could transfer a few hundred bits (about one hundred letters) per second. Today’s internet service providers can exceed 1 gigabit per second for wired connections – over a million times faster than the earliest networks could transfer data.

With the ability to download an entire feature-length film in less than a minute, high-bandwidth connections offered by fiber optic cable offer sufficient data transfer for dozens of users at once. Wireless internet connections, such as the recently developed 5G wireless standard, now offer connection speeds above 100 Mbps (megabits per second), exceeding what was available for a home wired connection just a few years ago.

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