Bandwidth vs Throughput: What’s The Difference?

Bandwidth vs Throughput - Whats the difference

When you read about bandwidth and throughput you may see them used in very similar ways. This is because they are actually very similar and both relate to how fast you can transfer data on your network.

However, they aren’t actually the same.

To find out what exactly the differences between the two are as well as when you should use each word, check out our bandwidth vs throughput article.

Bandwidth vs Throughput

Both bandwidth and throughput refer to data transfer speeds. They are both measured in the amount of data that can be transferred per second, for example, kilobits per second (Kbps), megabits per second (Mbps), and gigabits per second (Gbps).

However, there are subtle differences in the meaning to each work and they can’t be used interchangeably. Here is what each term means.


Bandwidth refers to the maximum speeds a network is theoretically able to transfer data at. For example, if you see a router advertising speeds of 433 Mbps then that number it is likely to be the bandwidth.

That means that should conditions be absolutely perfect on your network you could theoretically get speeds of 433 Mbps. However, as most of the time when you use your network conditions aren’t perfect, the actual speeds you receive will likely be much smaller.


The throughput is the actual speed you get when using your network and it is usually much smaller than the bandwidth. For example, if you are transferring a file on your network, the throughput is the speed at which the file is actually being sent. You can measure your throughput using sites like

Why The Difference?

There are many reasons for a difference between your throughput and your bandwidth. Devices are the biggest deal maker as the devices that are connected to a network may not be capable of the same speeds as the router. For example, if you use a Wireless AC router with a Wireless N device, you will be restricted to the maximum speed of the slower Wireless N device.

Also having a multiple-devices connected to a network at once can slow things down. This is because each device uses up a part of the total available bandwidth.

Congestion is another problem that can cause your throughout to be slower than your bandwidth. If there are a lot of physical barriers between your device and your router you may end up with a slower connection as the signal struggles to move through these physical barriers (if using wifi).

Likewise, if there are lots of competing networks in the area you may find this can cause your network to slow down as they interfere with your network’s signal.


So to conclude, both throughput and bandwidth refer to the transfer speeds of your network. Your bandwidth is the maximum speed possible. It is unlikely that you will ever actually achieve this speed so you should always take that into consideration when buying a device.

The throughput meanwhile is the actual speeds you receive when connected to a network. In order to ensure your throughput is as close to the bandwidth as possible, you should avoid congestion (on wifi) and ensure that neither device is holding the other one back

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