Thursday, November 23, 2017

What is Bandwidth?

You always want more internet bandwidth, but do you know what bandwidth actually is? Some say it is the capacity of a network, but they don’t seem to bother with the fact that the term “capacity” is simply too broad and your brain is too narrow. Others say it is the data transfer speed of a channel without clarifying if what they mean by “channel” is not Cartoon Network or MTV because that is all you can think of. Your classmates will probably tell you that bandwidth is only about how fast they can upload images of their lunch every single time.

What is Bandwidth
The good about low bandwidth is that you will find times to read newspaper

Bandwidth, in a dumbed-down version, is the volume of information or data that a transmission medium can handle per unit of time; the transmission medium usually is internet, but bandwidth is also a widely used concept in radio broadcasting, signal processing, and other forms of digital communication. Both wireless and physical communication networks use bandwidth as the unit to measure capacity to transmit, transfer, and receive data.

When you turn on your computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone, smartwatch, smart TV, smart refrigerator, smart thermostat, smart weather monitoring system, or basically any device you have with a prefix “smart” that requires internet connection, it does not mean that the device suddenly makes you a smart person but it does transmit and receive data. In between those activities, the data must travel through a medium called Internet which may consists of multiple networks. Your device needs to receive information from a source so it can show some interesting images on the screen, and it must also send data so the Internet understands your request, search term, or the website address that you want to access.

Internet is not one big computer with trillions of terabytes of data. For example if you open a Wikipedia page, you access information from Wikipedia server; watching cat videos on YouTube also means the data is sent from the company’s server, not the cat. The data you receive is sent from a specific server located somewhere is somebody’s garage; you may also want to check your neighbor’s basement. In such case, your modem is the receiving end. During peer-to-peer connection or if you upload images of your latest piece of this morning’s scrambled eggs to Facebook, your modem is the source.

What is Bandwidth
An image says a thousand words, plus some asterisks
Your bandwidth is often measured in bits per second (bps); “bits” represent the volume of information, while “second” is the unit of time. Internet connection with smaller bandwidth is more likely slower than one with larger bandwidth. If the source side has a bandwidth of 512 Kbps and the receiving party only has 128 Kbps, there will be a delay in communication due to different maximum transfer rate. However, this is not the only way to determine speed since you also have to consider noise, especially when you are using wireless Internet. Noises or interferences can come from almost anything including microwave, electric motors, radio, atmosphere, Thor, and aliens. If you have a gigabyte of bandwidth but the loading circle keeps on turning, try to add some more stuffs to your offerings to Thor, preferably a perfume or a more appropriate rain coat. For more accurate diagnostic result, you also need to run a bandwidth test.

Your ISP gives you very specific number to tell you how fast your Internet is. Assuming you have a 100 Mbps bandwidth, it means your modem or router can handle a data transfer rate of 100 million bits every second. If you read the previous two sentences carefully just like you very rarely do, it says Mbps instead of MBps – there is a big difference between the two. Referring back to the previous discussion, bandwidth is volume of information transmitted per unit of time but no law that says it must be in bits per second. Any unit of volume and time can be used such as bits, bytes, kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes, second, minute, hour, day, and so on. A bandwidth speed test will tell you exactly how slow the connection is.

One byte equals to 8 bits, so 100 Mbps is roughly just around 12.5 MBps. Don’t blame your ISP for using the larger number because it actually is your fault for not being very good at reading. How much bandwidth you need depends only on how you plan to use it and the money you have. For simple Facebook stalking or trolling, a low-end bandwidth should be sufficient. On the other hand, you need to spend all the money you can spend on bandwidth and computers if you want to hack the Pentagon.