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Introduction to Bandwidth

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  • Difficulty Level : Hard
  • Last Updated : 10 May, 2022
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Overview :
Bandwidth, or precisely network bandwidth, is the maximum rate at which data transfer occurs across any particular path of the network. Bandwidth is basically a measure of the amount of data that can be sent and received at any instance of time. That simply means that higher is the bandwidth of a network, larger is the amount of data network can be sending to and from across its path. Be careful not to confuse bandwidth with closely related terms such as the data rate and the throughput. Bandwidth is something that deals with the measurement of capacity and not the speed of data transfer. 

Units of Measurement :
Bandwidth is usually measured in bits transferred per second through a path or link. The common units of bandwidth we come across are as follows.

bps  (Bits per second)
Mbps (Megabits per second)
Gbps (Gigabits per second) 

Example –
Here, a bandwidth of 10 bps for a channel, is just another way of saying that  a maximum of 10 bits can be transferred using that link for any given time. It has no relation with the transfer speed of the channel.

Property of Physical Layer in the OSI Model :
Physical Layer in the OSI Model as we know comes as the bottom-most layer in the Open System Interconnection (OSI) Reference Model. And since this layer deals with communication of the raw data streams across a physical transmission medium bandwidth is an essential parameter of the layer.

Theoretical nature of Bandwidth :
If we closely understand the concept of bandwidth and the information we get from the bandwidth measurement of a network link we can clearly see that it is more of a theoretical (or not real-time value) concept in terms of communication taking place across the network. It is the maximum capacity possible that might not be achieved during most of the instances of the communication. Bandwidth does not depend on the sender and receiver components and is solely determined by the communication media employed to carry the information. Hence, bandwidth is never affected by any physical obstruction as it is a theoretical measurement parameter in a way.

Optimizing Network Bandwidth :
Often we are concerned about the network speed optimization but optimization of bandwidth is also a matter of importance when it comes to making the network suitable for a fast and effective communication. This is because having poorly-optimized bandwidth in a network can surely have adverse impact on the overall performance of the network and thus declining the efficiency and user experience severely. 

Methods of optimizing bandwidth : 
Here are a few methods used to optimize the bandwidth of a given network.

  • Using the QoS Settings to set the network traffic policies and prioritize traffic based on it’s type such that high-maintenance applications are well equipped with the bandwidth needed by them to perform effectively.
  • Deploying application public and private clouds that will offload the network as lesser maintenance of the traffic needs to be done in the particular network being optimized.
  • Eliminating any kind of unproductive non-essential traffic wasting bandwidth on irrelevant operations.
  • Scheduling Updates, installing software patches or creating backups outside of the Peak Hours can significantly reduce the strain on network bandwidth.
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