Speed, Bandwidth & Data: What is the Difference?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines bandwidth as the “capacity for data transfer of an electronic communications system”. Everything you read, watch or listen to online comes to you in the form of data transfers to your device or computer.

Network speed is how fast data can travel (data transfer rate) while being uploaded and downloaded over a network with a specific bandwidth. When you see a download speed of up to 300mbps on that new internet plan it means you will have a MAXIMUM network speed of 300mbps for downloading, streaming, uploading and playing games.

Bandwidth is the maximum size of that data transfer. So with a speed of 300mbps, you could send a 1 GB file and it might be transferred in a few seconds. If your coworker is also sending a 1 GB file, it might take longer for both files because you are now sharing the bandwidth and reducing the network speed as it tries to process both of these files at the same time.

In a nutshell, Bandwidth is how wide the pipe is but Network speed is how fast the water is going through the pipe. Makes sense right? If everyone is pouring water in, it will only come out at a set rate and could eventually get backed up, which is when lagging, time outs and other issues start occurring on your network.

Let’s dig a bit deeper…


The 2 Main Types of Bandwidth

Most service providers offer either symmetrical or asymmetrical bandwidth. The difference is the upload and download speeds. See the table below for some common symmetrical and asymmetrical connections.

Symmetrical Bandwidth means the upload/download speeds and data transfer volumes are equal. This is usually seen in Fibre optic connections or cable internet, where the connections are more stable. This type of connection usually requires little buffer for videos and live streaming such as, webinars or video conferences.

Asymmetrical Bandwidth means the speeds are not equal. With this type of bandwidth, the download speeds are significantly higher than the upload speeds. For example, ADSL connections could have a download speed of 50 Mbps but only upload at 5 Mbps.

We should also mention Bandwidth throttling because it is a common occurrence with both mobile and ISP providers when you go over your set amount of data. This means that your network speeds are reduced because your bandwidth has been reduced. Basically, a higher bandwidth = higher network speeds while a lower bandwidth = lower network speeds!

Comparing Bandwidth and Data

The bandwidth for your internet connection at work and your cell phone data are intimately connected, but not necessarily the same thing.

Network Bandwidth speeds (measured in bps) can be affected by how many devices are connected to the network since everyone connected will share it. Each device will take a share of the bandwidth, with some taking more than others. More connections means the bandwidth is diluted and data transfer speed is reduced.

Many ISPs share bandwidth among neighbours who use the same service. If everyone in your neighbourhood is using the same ISP and they all decide to start streaming Netflix, you may see a reduction in speed due to the bandwidth being reduced. This is common on weekends and holidays.

Data Transfers (measured in MB or GB) are how much data you are downloading or uploading through your network, either mobile or internet. When you get a cell or home services bill that knocks your socks off, it is usually because your data usage is over.  Even if you only streamed a few videos from Netflix and played 6 hours of that new video game with high-resolution graphics…it is all data transfer. Data eats bandwidth for breakfast if you are not careful.

However small or large your needs may be, we have a data solution for you! We can assess and setup a variety of networks, for any industry, anywhere you need it to be. Visit our Data Services page for more information!

Many plans include a specific amount of data and when you go over, you are heavily charged for that usage. Many people do not realize that Netflix and YouTube are the BIGGEST bandwidth and data hogs around, not to mention some of the most popular streaming platforms. 37% of download traffic comes from Netflix and 18% comes from YouTube.

How can you ensure you have enough to go around?

Earth Communications can assess your network and provide a scalable solution that will have you ready for the future while meeting all of your needs. 


Upgrading your network or having it assessed, are the best ways to ensure that there is always enough bandwidth to provide you with reasonable network speeds. If you need to enhance or boost your network, we can run an assessment for you and suggest improvements that will keep you running smoothly. Visit our Signal Enhancement page for more information on how we can help you with stronger, more stable connections and signals.


For mobile apps and data

Using the settings on mobile devices, gaming systems or Smart TVs to reduce the media quality while streaming can make a huge difference if you find yourself using A LOT of data and bandwidth. These files are typically large and will affect your bandwidth, and potentially your wallet.

This blog explains mobile data in more detail, including a list of what you can stream with 2GB, 5GB and 10GB plans. 

If your network is just slow and you have frequent timeout errors, then you might need to upgrade your connections or equipment to ensure it can handle the bandwidth and network speeds that you need. From mobile operations to remote worksites, our team can provide temporary or permanent network enhancement and upgrades to keep your team connected. Visit our Computers/Networking page for more information!

Communication is a requirement, regardless of the location or conditions! If you are having an issue with your network, call us today.  

Earth Communications uses the latest in networking technology to provide fast reliable service to our clients. We have the tools and equipment to give you the bandwidth and network speeds that you need, without sacrificing efficiency. We offer bandwidth allocation, signal enhancements and other networking solutions for any industry as well as residential locations, temporary events and more.

From something as small as a radio programming or IT support to developing and integrating network enterprise infrastructure, we are here to support you. Through quality, integrity and safe operations, Earth Communications proudly provides products and services that empower our customers to communicate effectively in today’s’ changing world.

Contact us today at 1 (877) 560-3276! We have offices conveniently located in Alberta and British Columbia to serve you better!

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Through quality, integrity and safe operations, Earth Communications proudly provides products and services that empower our customers to communicate effectively in todays’ changing world.