Difference between Bandwidth and Throughput

Updated on June 21, 2017

The terms “bandwidth” and “throughput” have several technical definitions. In the world of computer networks, both terms are closely related. This article will explain the difference between the two.


An internet connection speed tester

The term bandwidth can be generally defined as the maximum rate a certain device can transfer data over an internet or network connection. It describes how much data travels over a certain connection in specified amount of time. For example, an ethernet connection usually has a higher bandwidth than an internet connection. Video or music file transfers move faster when done using two devices connected via an ethernet connection. Downloading the same files using a device connected to the internet is considerably slower due to the lower bandwidth. Bandwidth is usually expressed in bits per second. A 50 Mbps connection translates to 50 million bits of data that can be transferred using that specific connection. Home broadband users with fiber connections can enjoy internet speeds of up to 10 Gbps. This is 180,000 faster compared to the ancient 56 kbps modems cavemen used in the past.

Most broadband connections are characterized by varying speeds as a result of the way data is transferred. Heavy internet traffic (i.e. peak hours) can impact the quality of the connection, just like vehicular traffic slows down during rush hour.

A central processing unit or CPU

Throughput, or network throughput, is the success rate of data delivery over a communication channel in a given amount of time. The transmission of data is usually expressed in bits per second or bps, megabits per second (Mbps), and gigabits per second (Gbps). It can be used to describe how fast a computer sends data signals through its components such as the central processor, storage devices, and buses These data may be delivered over a physical link. or through a network node. Thus, throughput is completely synonymous to digital bandwidth consumption.

The throughput of any system may be affected by several factors. These include end-user considerations, hardware limitations, and the processing power of system components. Given that all these factors are addressed accordingly, the rate in which data is successfully transferred can be less than the maximum throughput that can be achieved. In contrast to lost data during transfer, data successfully sent is called “goodput.”

Bandwidth vs Throughput

So what’s the difference between bandwidth and throughput? Bandwidth is the maximum rate at which a device can send data over an internet or network connection in a certain amount of time. Throughput, on the other hand, is the rate at which data is successfully transferred from a device over a linked network in a certain amount of time.

Comparison Chart

Amount of data that can be sent from a device over an internet or networked in a certain amount of timeThe success rate at which data is sent through a device connected to the internet
May be used to measure the performance of an internet connectionMay be used to measure the performance of a computer’s processor, memory, and networked devices in terms of data transfer


Here’s a YouTube video explaining bandwidth and throughput.