Bandwidth. Data Rate. Throughput. What’s the difference?
Let’s discuss the similarities and differences in bandwidth, data rate and throughput. In the wireless industry, these words are used interchangeably and can sometimes be a little bit confusing. All three of these terms help define the speed at which a device or network sends and receives data. Let’s define them and then discuss the differences and similarities as we use them in the world of wireless.
What is Bandwidth? Bandwidth is the measurement of the ability of an electronic communications device or system to send and receive information
What is Throughput? Throughput is the amount of data that enters and goes through a system
What is Data Rate? Data rate is the speed at which data is transferred between two devices, measured in mega bits per second (Mbps or mbps)
There is a direct correlation between all of three of terms which is why it can be confusing and hard to keep straight at times, even for industry professionals. It’s summertime and most of us have our gardens and flowers blooming so let’s think of the data capacity as a water hose for an example to understand this clearer.
Bandwidth is the MAXIMUM amount of water that can travel through that hose. Similarly, bandwidth would be the maximum about of data that could be transferred through the RF channel(s). For example, our AW58100 Ethernet radio has a maximum bandwidth of 100 Mbps. Now that we know this, we know that the bandwidth will always be greater or equal to the throughput.
Keeping with the water hose analogy, throughput is the ACTUAL amount of water that travels through the hose. There are external things that can affect that throughput, a kink in the hose, etc. In the same way that there are external factors for the water hose, there are also real world interferences that can affect the amount of data that is being sent wirelessly. Some typical things that can affect your actual throughput is RF interference and physical obstructions. This is why our that same AW58100 Ethernet radio has a throughput of 60 Mbps instead of the full advertised 100 Mbps bandwidth. The 40% loss is the amount of bandwidth that it takes the radio to transmit the data, we refer to that as the RF bandwidth.
Moving onto data rate, or data transfer rate. Here at AvaLAN, we use “data rate” to define the throughput of our Ethernet devices. Just like with throughput, it is the actual transfer rate for the data. All of our 5.8Ghz products are listed with the appropriate data rate you can expect to get with these wireless Ethernet devices. Of course there are real world factors that we cannot predict that may change the throughput or data rate, but we educate ourselves and our customers to plan and predict for those potential factors.
Did you find this blog helpful and the terms now easier to understand? You can find other articles that help differentiate Bandwidth and Throughput on this blog about Bandwidth vs. Throughput blog and this one about Networking Throughput blog.