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What is the difference between internet data and bandwidth?

When looking for the best internet package, many individuals wonder what is the difference between internet data and bandwidth. Internet service providers (ISPs) will base their pricing on bandwidth, data and speed, so understanding these concepts is critical if you want to get the best value from your package. 

Data is what we use to connect to the internet and are measured in megabytes. Video streaming will consume more data than reading emails or browsing Google. Then there’s bandwidth, which is the greatest quantity of data that can be transmitted in a certain period of time over a connection. It is the amount of data that can be delivered and received at any one time, measured in megabits per second (Mbps).

We can explain data and bandwidth in terms of water. An internet package has a certain amount of data, as a water tank has a certain volume and can hold an amount of water. The bandwidth is like a pipe coming from the tank, the bigger the diameter of the pipe, the more water (data) is able to flow out of the tank. 

How does bandwidth work?

What is the difference between internet data and bandwidth?

Now that we’ve defined bandwidth, let’s look at how it relates to data transmission. The more bandwidth a connection has, the more data it can send and receive at any given time. A one gigabit per second (Gbps) connection will cost more than a 500 megabit per second (Mbps) connection, but it will also allow you to do so much more. More bandwidth means fewer delays and more capability. 

What is a data rate?

The data rate is also a measurement of the quantity of data that can be transmitted each second, expressed in megabits per second (Mbps). It refers to the real rate at which data is delivered through the connection, whereas bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of data that can be transferred. So data rate is the actual measurement, whereas bandwidth is the maximum potential measurement.

If your internet bandwidth is 500Mbps but the data rate is only 250Mbps, it means that a maximum of 500Mbps of data can be transmitted but the connection is only sending or receiving 250Mbps. Both of these factors need to be considered when looking at internet connectivity packages.

How much bandwidth do you need?

When deciding on the best internet package for your needs, you must evaluate your internet consumption as well as the number of connections you will have. More bandwidth will be required if you have many connected devices (laptops, cellphones, smart TVs, gaming consoles, etc.). Similarly, if you intend to stream movies, music or play online games, you will require additional bandwidth to avoid buffering and interruptions.

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Written by Kate Hawthorne

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