Difference Between Throughput and Bandwidth

Main Difference – Throughput vs. Bandwidth

Throughput and bandwidth are terms used to describe a device’s ability to transfer data in a network. The main difference between throughput and bandwidth is that bandwidth refers to the maximum possible speed with which a device can transfer data whereas throughput refers to the actual speed at which a device transfers data at a given time.

What is Bandwidth

The term “bandwidth” can be used in two separate contexts. In signal processing, the term is used to refer to the range of frequencies that a device is able to transfer. However, here we refer to the term as it is used in computer networking. In networking, bandwidth measures the maximum rate at which a device can transfer data.

Internet connections are almost always expressed in terms of the bandwidth. For instance, when an internet service provider advertises a 50 Mbps connection, they mean that the connection is capable of transferring 50 megabytes per second. There are two speeds for transferring data: the download speeds are usually much larger than the upload speeds. It is the download speeds that are usually advertised.

What is Throughput

In practice, however, the actual speeds at which data can be transferred to a device in an internet connection is much smaller than the advertised speeds. This actual speed with which data is transferred by a device is known as the throughput. This reduction in speed could be caused by to several reasons. Networks need to use up some of the data in order to share information about the data it is transferring, which reduces the amount of actual data that can be transferred. Throughput is also reduced due to limitations in various other hardware/software that form a part of a network. Network traffic can also reduce throughput. At times, an internet service provider may deliberately reduce the data transfer rates, which also reduces throughput.

Difference Between Throughput and Bandwidth - Ethernet_Cables

Throughput is always less than or equal to the bandwidth. Hardware used to set up a network sometimes affect the throughput.

Difference Between Throughput and Bandwidth


Bandwidth refers to the maximum possible rate at which a device could transfer data. 

Throughput refers to the actual rate at which data can be transferred by a device.


Bandwidth is always greater than or equal to the throughput.


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“waDWWDD” by Tmthetom (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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