A Simple Guide to the Different Types of Bandwidth

When people ask questions like “what are the different types of bandwidth,” most likely they’re really asking about different kinds of internet services. They may even be asking about the type of medium the signal gets passed through — copper or fiberoptic cables.

These are all important questions for a household consumer, but even more so if you’re looking at hosting a dedicated server for a company.

Keep reading to learn all you need to know about bandwidth, latency, and data limits.

What Is Bandwidth and Is It the “Speed” of Your Internet?

Is bandwidth the speed of your internet connection? The answer is a contradictory “yes” and “no.” For a variety of reasons, bandwidth alone isn’t the only measurement of internet “speed.” The other metric is latency.

What Is Latency?

Latency is the amount of time it takes for a signal to go from A to B. An electrical signal passes through copper wire systems faster than fiberoptic cable, despite what you might see otherwise in marketing materials.

The caveat is that even though it’s “faster” than light bouncing around in a glass wire, electricity loses energy very quickly.

That means that it can’t travel far without the signal getting repeated — and we can do it only so many times. Every time a signal gets sent it’s like taking a copy of a copy, which means “packets” of data get lost.

Latency is measured in milliseconds or thousandths of seconds during a ping. That is, how long it takes for a message to be sent, received, and returned.

The need to repeat a signal many times slows that signal down much more than a slightly slower signal that doesn’t need repetitions.

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How Bandwidth Is Different

Bandwidth is measured in bits and bytes per second. A byte equals ten bits and has a capital B. For example, one GBps (Gigabytes per second) equals eight Gbps (Gigabits per second).

Almost all bandwidth measurements you’re going to see in the real world will be in Mbps (Megabits per second) until networks are able to provide more consistent service.

Speaking of service, when you get a 1 Gbps plan on fiberoptic that’s equal to 125 MBps download at full speed. Most home internet plans don’t limit the amount of data you can use in a month unless they see excessive usage, such as hosting a dedicated server from home.

It isn’t really a limitation on bandwidth but on total data usage. If you’re wanting to host a dedicated server, click for unlimited bandwidth server plans that will definitely work better than a self-hosted or on-premise server.

Copper only sends signals one way at a time (asymmetric bandwidth) with higher bandwidth allocated to downstream signals. Fiberoptic has the same bandwidth limitation up and downstream (symmetric bandwidth). This makes fiberoptic a better choice for interactive internet usage like videocalls.

The Different Types of Bandwidth

Bandwidth is almost exclusively “broadband” now. That means that it has at least 25 Mbps download speeds and 3 Mbps upload speed limits.

Before 2005, DSL was the most common internet connection for most households, with Cable and T1 lines prohibitive in cost. Up to that point internet connections were categorized as “narrowband,” “wideband,” and “broadband.”

It isn’t so important a term anymore, but there are good security reasons you might want to limit bandwidth for IoT and other devices.

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The Broad View

Bandwidth and broadband are widely misunderstood, as you now know. The types of bandwidth, types of signal media, and how to read latency and bandwidth measurements.

Want to learn how networking actually works? Keep browsing our articles to learn everything you need to know!