Understanding Bandwidth

Generally speaking, bandwidth is the maximum rate at which you can download data from the internet to your computer.

Think about bandwidth like a water hose. Say you need to fill a 100-gallon tank. If your garden hose puts out only 5 gallons of water per minute, you’ll be waiting 20 minutes to fill the tank. But a huge firehose that puts out a gallon of water every second will fill the tank in less than two minutes.

Bandwidth is like the size of the hose. The larger it is, the more data you can pull down in a given time.

Bandwidth is measured in bits per second. Note that bits are different than bytes, the common measure of file size. One byte equals 8 bits, so 1 megabyte (MB) equals 8 megabits. 

If you have a 1 megabit-per-second connection, a 1MB file will take eight seconds to download. 

On a 1 Mbps connection, an MP3 file, which might measure about 6MB, will take about 48 seconds to download. A 5 gigabyte, or 5,000MB, movie will take about 11 hours.