Computer network speed depends on several factors such as bandwidth, latency, hardware, software, etc. In a layman language, computer network speed could be the time required to open a web page or stream an online movie.

A computer network refers to a collection of computers that are connected via network cables for communicating and sharing resources among a wide range of users. Best known example of a network is the internet which is widely being used all over the world.

Moving ahead, you will get the in-depth idea about computer network speed, how it works, the associated terms and common factors which can affect network speed.

Network Speed

Every one of us wishes to have a network that is reliable and faster. But sometimes, delay happens while accessing things on a network. The delay is known as network delay.

Network delay can last from a few milliseconds to a few seconds, leaving anyone frustrated since the overall experience kills time. The network delay can happen while establishing a new connection, loading a website, buffering online videos, downloading software, etc.

Network speed is determined by a key factor termed bandwidth. Bandwidth is defined as the amount of data that can be sent in a fixed amount of time, usually measured in seconds. For example, 10 Mbps would mean that we receive up to 10 megabits of data per second.

Administrators make use of various tools to measure the bandwidth of network connections. Some of them include netperf and ttcp used in Local Area Networks.

On the other hand, there are various bandwidth and speed test programs on the internet which are freely available. Although several tools are available, precise bandwidth utilization is still difficult to measure since it varies over time.

What is bandwidth and how it works? 

Every data travels at the same speed to get more data from the internet to our computer as fast as possible. If we are trying to download an image which is 5 Mb in size and has a bandwidth of 1 Mbps, it will take approximately 5 seconds to download the image. Whereas, if you have 5 Mbps bandwidth connection, then you will be able to download the image in 1 second.

However, the maximum throughput of a network is always higher than the actual throughput achieved in day to day use. You may not get 1Gbps speed from a standard 802.11ac wireless connection.

There are several factors, such as computer hardware, operating systems, network protocols, etc., which contributes to the difference in actual and maximum throughput of a computer network.

Abbreviations related to network speed

There are specific units commonly used for knowing the amount of data transferred per second. Here are some of them explained.

  • Kbps or kbps – Kilobits per second. It is commonly used in dial-up and low-speed DSL (Digital subscriber line).
  • Mbps or mbps– Megabits per second. This is the widely used unit of internet speed.
  • MBps– Megabytes per second. Mostly, residential internet plans avoid using it.
  • Gbps or gbps– Gigabits per second.

Latency also affect the computer network speed 

Latency plays an essential role relating to the speed of a network. It is the amount of time or delay is taken to send information from one point to other. It is usually measured in milliseconds or ms. Latency is also referred as a ping rate during speed tests.

Low latency network experiences small delay times, whereas a high latency network suffers long delays. Ping tests and Trace Route are the tools which are used to measure latency commonly.

Factors affecting Latency

Some of the factors that affect latency are given below:

Connection Type

Latency gets affected based on the type of connections. The best example is satellite internet whose satellites are miles away in the space.

Whenever we make a request, it goes to the satellite, the central ISP hub, the internet, and at last returns to us.

The request makes multiple trips to space and then come back to us and get the final data based on our initial requisition. The whole process is lengthy. A typical satellite connection may have ping rates in the range of 500ms.

Distances

If you are situated far from things like satellites, ISP hub, etc. then it will take longer time for the information to reach you after you made the initial request.

Congestion

You experience network congestion due to the smaller bandwidth connection, especially with low latency.

Cause and Effect of Latency and Bandwidth

If we have low latency and a small bandwidth, it will take longer for information or data to travel from one point to other compared to a connection that has low latency and high bandwidth. 

Over to you

Now you know essential aspects of computer network speed. Next time when you are going ahead with a high-speed broadband connection, do check for factors affecting the network speed.