What's the difference between speed and latency? - Phoenix Internet

When you’re trying to connect to web pages, there are two factors that determine how fast your page loads and responds to your requests — speed and latency. Understanding the differences between the two can help you understand what you need to make your commercial or residential internet service and Wi-Fi networks work properly and efficiently. Let’s get started!

What Is Internet Speed?

When you hear internet service providers refer to speed in their marketing materials, they’re really talking about bandwidth. Network bandwidth is a measure of the rate at which data moves over your network. It’s usually measured in megabits per second (Mbps). The higher the bandwidth rate, the more information can be delivered over the network.

There are actually two measures of bandwidth. One is the download speed, which is the most commonly used measure, and indicates how quickly data such as website images or files are delivered to you. Upload speed is less common but is an indicator of how fast files and information can be sent to the internet.

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What is Latency for an Internet Connection?

Latency is measured in milliseconds and is an indicator of the time it takes between requesting information on the internet and when it arrives. If your website has a high latency rate, it can create frustration in users — who may choose a different source for information or products.

High latency rates can be caused by slow and overloaded servers, poor data packing or jumping data from network to network. In all cases, high latency makes an internet connection feel slow. Even if the bandwidth is large, users will complain that the network is slow. In many cases, while it can take several seconds for information to arrive, it arrives all at once.

How to Differentiate Between Internet Speed and Latency

Imagine that your internet connection is a river. A narrow river on which you can hop from one side to the other would have a low bandwidth rate. A massively wide body of water, such as the Mississippi River, has a large bandwidth. Higher bandwidth rivers are bigger and can carry more water.

Now imagine you’re looking upriver and see a log floating. How long will it take between the time you see the log until it passes you standing on the shore? That’s the latency … how fast it takes that log to reach your location. If the water on the river that’s carrying the log does not flow quickly, it has a high latency rate and it will take a while to reach you.

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What Do Speed and Latency Mean for My Internet Connection?

You can have one of the largest internet bandwidths available, but if your latency rate is also high, websites will take a lot longer to load. However, once the connection is established, the content will likely load quickly.

If you have poor bandwidth but a good (low) latency rate, web pages will start to load quickly, but each element will load separately — as if there are too many logs trying to make it through the same narrow river opening.

Think of it like logs moving down a wide, slow-moving river vs a thin, fast moving rider. A wide slow-moving river will take longer for things to move down the current, while a fast-moving and thin river will move things down the current faster, there are too many logs to all fit next to each other, so while they’ll arrive faster – it’ll be one by one.

Why Do Speed and Latency Matter?

You want high-speed connections with low latency, especially if you’re a gamer, like to stream video or audio, participate in video chats or frequently browse the internet. To determine if your existing network is giving you the right connectivity, you can use a free speed and latency test tool.

Understanding the importance of both speed and latency is key. Remember:

  • Speed, also known as bandwidth, is how fast data moves through the internet
  • Latency is how long it takes requested items to appear
  • High bandwidth and low latency is ideal

Then it’s time to call or email Phoenix Internet. We deliver some of the fastest speeds and lowest latency rates in the Phoenix area. Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation on how to improve internet latency and help you decide what type of internet service you need.