What is Bandwidth?

Satellite Internet Bandwidth

Most people know high bandwidth is necessary for fast internet speeds, but not everyone knows what bandwidth is, exactly, or how it contributes to a user’s internet experience. Here, we will take a quick look at bandwidth, what it is, why it is important, and how bandwidth impacts the speed and quality of home internet plans.

Let us start with the most obvious question: what is bandwidth? Bandwidth measures a network’s data transfer rate, usually in bits per second (bps). The more bandwidth you have, the more data can be sent and received over your network at once.  

Bandwidth vs. Speed

Bandwidth is often confused with network speed. Network speed is how fast you can receive and send data over your network, while bandwidth describes how much data can be sent simultaneously. Think of your network like a highway with a speed limit of 55 mph. If the highway has two lanes, it is not able to move as many vehicles at once as a three- or four-lane highway would, even if both highways have the same speed limit. 

Bandwidth vs. Latency

If bandwidth can be compared to a multilane highway, and internet speed to the highway’s speed limit, then latency can be compared to travel time. Latency describes how long it takes a data request to travel from your network to its destination then back to your device. The greater the distance traveled, the higher your latency. 

Satellite internet, as data, is routed through telecommunication satellites thousands of miles above the Earth. Despite these distances, satellite internet latency is typically measured in milliseconds. 


Bandwidth vs. Throughput

While bandwidth describes how much data a network can transmit simultaneously, throughput measures how much data is successfully transmitted. Throughput is impacted by bandwidth, network speed, latency, data packet loss, and other factors. Network throughput is almost always less than network bandwidth.

Need more definitions of internet terms? Check out our internet terminology page.


How Much Bandwidth Do I Need?

Your bandwidth is limited, which affects how you manage your network. Every device connected to your router demands its share of bandwidth. Too many connected devices will slow your network speed as each device takes its share. 

How you use the internet also impacts bandwidth demands. If you are streaming HD videos while another family member is playing online games, you will use much more bandwidth than if you were watching standard videos while someone else is sending text messages. 

How to Measure Bandwidth Usage

Knowing how to measure bandwidth usage helps you calculate how much you need. Many internet providers offer home network management apps that allow you to view your data usage. You can also measure bandwidth usage for individual devices by opening device settings and searching for app usage. Here is how measuring bandwidth usage on four of the most popular types of network-connected devices works: 

  • PC Computers and Laptops: For a thirty-day record of your apps’ data usage, go to Settings→Network and Internet→Data Usage→Overview
  • Mac Computers: Open Apple Menu→System Preferences→Screen Time→App Usage→Apps to measure bandwidth usage for individual apps or find total usage for all apps
  • Android Smartphones: Open Settings→Connections→Data Usage→either Mobile Data Usage or Wi-Fi Data Usage for information you can use to measure bandwidth usage
  • iPhones: Open Settings→Cellular→Mobile Data for an overview of app data usage 


Bandwidth and Internet Activities

ActivityData usage per hourTime needed to use 1 GB
SD Streaming Video500 MB2 hours
HD Streaming Video2 GB30 minutes
4K Streaming Video8 GB7.5 minutes
SD Video Call340 MB3 hours
HD Video Call2 GB30 minutes
Smart Home Security Camera2 GB30 minutes
Sending and Receiving Email40 MB per 100 emails2,500 emails
Streaming Audio60 MB18 hours
Social Media Use90 MB10 hours
Online Gaming200 MB5 hours
Web Browsing1870 MB5 hours


Factors Affecting Bandwidth Usage and Allocation

  • Number of connected devices 
  • Internet usage (streaming, web browsing, gaming, etc.)
  • Packet loss
  • Latency rates 
  • Router and modem performance
  • Your internet plan
  • Whether your device is wired to the router or wireless
  • Background internet usage, such as automatically updating apps


How to Increase Bandwidth

  • Position your Wi-Fi Router for optimal performance.
  • Reboot your router to clear its data cache.
  • Disable automatic backups on your devices (remember to update devices manually if you do this).
  • Keep your router’s firmware and software up to date.
  • Keep your device software updated.
  • Switch between your router’s 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels to check which gives you the most bandwidth. 
  • Reduce the number of devices connected to your network or disconnect devices when not in use. 
  • Reduce your streaming service’s video playback quality. 
  • Use an Ethernet connection for your most important devices.
  • All plans include a Wi-Fi Modem featuring Wi-Fi 6 technology. Wi-Fi 6 delivers improved speed with enhanced security and better performance for multiple devices.

Be sure to consider bandwidth when researching internet providers for rural areas. Hughesnet provides reliable internet service to areas underserved by wired internet service providers. We offer various bandwidths with our home internet plans to meet the needs of rural families and businesses alike. Find the Best Satellite Internet Plans in Your Area today!