What Is the Difference Between Bandwidth and Speed?

The term bandwidth is normally confused with speed of an Internet connection, but the two are totally different things. Bandwidth is a measurement of the amount of data that can be transferred in a given time, whereas speed is the rate at which something happens. For instance, speed can mean the rate at which a specific amount of data is transferred.

When dealing with Internet connections, bandwidth is represented as bits per second of data that are being, or can be, downloaded at a given time. However, it does not necessarily depict the actual speed of the Internet connection.

That being said, speed and bandwidth are used interchangeably in computing because bandwidth can influence the speed of an Internet connection. For instance, when a user is downloading a file via a connection with bigger bandwidth, the file will download faster. The same effect can be experienced when surfing the Internet as bigger bandwidth leads to faster page loading times.

In applications such as online gaming or Internet telephone services, bigger bandwidth does not necessarily translate into speed and it is here that the difference between the two becomes clearer. In these cases, the response time (latency) is more critical than bandwidth. Low response times directly affect speed of a network or Internet connection.