Understanding Latency and Bandwidth: Unveiling the Key Differences

9 min read
May 16, 2023

Video conferencing has become an integral part of our modern digital world, revolutionising the way we communicate and collaborate. With the increasing popularity of remote work and virtual meetings, the demand for seamless video conferencing experiences is higher than ever before.

But have you ever wondered what makes a video call smooth and glitch-free? Two crucial factors play a significant role in determining the quality of your video conferencing experience: latency and bandwidth.

Table of Contents

  1. So what is latency?
  2. Factors affecting latency
  3. Different types of latency
  4. How exactly can latency impact businesses and users?
  5. What is bandwidth?
  6. Factors influencing bandwidth
  7. Importance of good bandwidth and impact of low bandwidth
  8. Latency vs. bandwidth: understanding the differences
  9. Differentiating latency and bandwidth
  10. Scenarios showcasing latency and bandwidth
  11. Balancing latency and bandwidth for optimal performance
  12. Achieve better real-time communication quality with the Digital Samba

In this article, we will unravel the mysteries behind latency and bandwidth and how they influence the quality of video communication over the Internet. 

So what is latency?

When it comes to computer networks, latency refers to the time delay that occurs when data packets travel from their source to their destination. Essentially, it’s the time it takes for a packet to travel across a network and reach its intended endpoint. 

Latency is measured in units of time, typically milliseconds (ms) or microseconds (μs). These units provide a standardised way to quantify and compare latency values across different network environments.

Network latency is typically expressed in terms of round-trip time (RTT), which measures the time it takes for a packet to travel from the sender to the receiver and back. RTT is often used to assess latency for interactive applications, where responsiveness is critical.

What is Latency - Digital Samba

Factors affecting latency

Let’s have a look at some of the factors that affect latency. 

Different types of latency

Latency can be categorised into different types based on their specific characteristics and the impact they may have on network performance. Let’s have a look at some of the most common types:

  • Transmission latency: Within a network infrastructure, there are points where data packets travel across physical mediums such as cables or wireless connections. The time it takes for the data to travel is affected by the quality of the medium. For instance, signal degradation, interference, or the type of transmission medium can influence transmission latency.

  • Propagation latency: As we mentioned above, physical distance is one of the major factors that affect latency. If the data packets need to travel for long distances, there will be delays in delivery causing propagation latency. Additionally, propagation latency also depends on the speed of light or electricity through a transmission medium.

  • Processing latency: This type of latency is caused by intermediate points within the network such as routers or switches which need to process data packets before they can forward them. The time it takes for these devices to handle and route the data also introduces processing latency, which can vary depending on the efficiency and capacity of the network equipment.

  • Queueing latency: In situations of high network traffic or congestion, data packets may need to wait in queues before being processed and transmitted. Results in Queueing latency - the delay experienced by packets while waiting for their turn to be forwarded, which significantly impacts the overall latency and network performance.

How exactly can latency impact businesses and users?

Latency has a significant impact on network performance and user experience:

  • User experience

Higher latency results in slower response times, frustrating users and reducing productivity. Delays in loading web pages or interacting with applications diminish the overall user experience.

  • Real-time applications

Latency disrupts real-time applications such as video conferencing, online gaming, and live streaming. Even minor delays in these industries can cause communication disruptions, lag, financial losses or compromised interactions.

  • Remote collaboration

Latency affects remote collaborations and video conferencing by introducing noticeable delays in conversations, hindering the natural flow and effective collaboration that users are used to in face-to-face communication.

Remote Collaboration with Digital Samba

  • Financial implications

In financial trading, low latency is crucial for executing trades quickly and accurately. Even milliseconds of delay can lead to missed opportunities and financial losses in the millions or billions of dollars.

What is bandwidth?

Bandwidth refers to the maximum data transfer rate of a network or internet connection. In simpler terms, you can think of bandwidth as the maximum capacity or amount of data that can be transmitted through a network at a particular time. Think of your 

It is measured in bits per second (bps), with higher units like kilobits per second (Kbps) and megabits per second (Mbps) representing larger capacities. Bandwidth determines the speed at which data can be transmitted over a network.

Factors influencing bandwidth

Like latency, there are also a few factors that can affect bandwidth. 

Importance of good bandwidth and impact of low bandwidth

Having good bandwidth is crucial for a seamless digital experience. It enables faster downloads, smooth streaming, and responsive online interactions. Adequate bandwidth supports multiple users without significant performance degradation or network congestion.

Low bandwidth, on the other hand, has negative impacts. This includes slower data transfer speeds, buffering during media streaming, and delays in webpage loading. Real-time applications suffer from poor quality, lag, and disrupted interactions with low bandwidth.

What is Bandwidth - Digital Samba

Bandwidth vs. latency: understanding the differences

Latency and bandwidth are two critical aspects of network performance, each playing a distinct role in data transmission. While related, it is essential to grasp the differences between latency and bandwidth to optimise network performance effectively.

Latency: time delays in data transmission

As mentioned above, latency, also known as delay, is the time it takes for data packets to travel from the source to the destination. It represents the overall time delay experienced during the transmission process. Latency is influenced by several factors within the network infrastructure.

Latency is typically measured in units of time, typically milliseconds (ms) or microseconds (μs) and expressed in terms of round-trip time (RTT).

Bandwidth: data transmission capacity

Bandwidth, on the other hand, refers to the capacity of a network to transmit data within a specific timeframe. It quantifies the maximum amount of data that can be transmitted over the network. 

Bandwidth is typically measured in bits per second (bps) or its derivatives, such as kilobits per second (Kbps) or megabits per second (Mbps).

Latency vs. Bandwidth Understanding the Differences

Differentiating latency and bandwidth

Latency and bandwidth address different aspects of network performance, and it is important to understand their distinctions:

Time vs. capacity:

  • Latency primarily focuses on time delays during data transmission.
  • Bandwidth relates to the capacity or throughput of the network, indicating how much data can be transmitted in a given timeframe.

Impact on performance:

  • Latency affects the responsiveness and delay in data transmission.
  • Bandwidth determines the maximum data transfer rate achievable on the network.

Scenarios showcasing latency and bandwidth

Understanding the practical implications of latency and bandwidth can help illustrate their significance in different scenarios:

Video conferencing quality:

  • Latency: In video conferencing, high latency can result in delayed audio or video, causing disruptions, lag, and a poor user experience.

  • Bandwidth: Insufficient bandwidth may lead to pixelated or low-quality video and audio, as the network struggles to transmit the required data.

Online gaming:

  • Latency: In online gaming, low latency is crucial for real-time responsiveness. High latency can lead to input delays, impacting the gameplay experience.

  • Bandwidth: Adequate bandwidth ensures smooth and uninterrupted gameplay by allowing the efficient transmission of game data, such as graphics, audio, and player interactions.
Scenarios Showcasing Latency and Bandwidth



Balancing latency and bandwidth for optimal performance

Achieving optimal network performance requires finding the right balance between latency and bandwidth. Both factors need to be carefully considered and optimised:

Latency optimisation:

  1. Minimise physical distance: Reduce latency by locating servers closer to end users or implementing content delivery networks (CDNs) to cache data closer to the user's location.

  2. Optimise network infrastructure: Ensure efficient and high-performance network equipment, such as routers and switches, to minimise processing delays.

  3. Streamline network routing: Implement optimised routing protocols and minimise unnecessary network hops to reduce latency.

Bandwidth optimisation:

  1. Increase network capacity: Upgrade network hardware to support higher data transfer rates and accommodate increased traffic demand.

  2. Manage network congestion: Implement traffic shaping, quality of service (QoS) mechanisms, or bandwidth allocation strategies to prioritise critical data and mitigate congestion.

  3. Employ data compression techniques: Compressing data can reduce the amount of data transmitted, optimising bandwidth utilisation.

Understanding the distinctions between latency and bandwidth is crucial for effectively managing and optimising network performance. Achieving the right balance ensures a responsive and efficient network environment.


Does higher bandwidth reduce latency?

Higher bandwidth does not necessarily reduce latency, as they are independent factors.

Does distance impact bandwidth or latency?

Distance can increase latency but does not directly affect bandwidth.

What is a good latency for the internet?

Good internet latency is typically below 100 milliseconds for general use.

Why does unlimited bandwidth increase latency?

Unlimited bandwidth does not inherently increase latency. Latency can be affected by other factors such as network congestion, distance, and server response time.

Can I have high bandwidth and high latency?

Yes, it's possible to have high bandwidth and high latency due to factors like signal processing or network congestion.

Why is latency less in 5G?

Latency is less in 5G due to advanced technology, higher frequencies, and more efficient data routing.

What is a good latency?

A good latency is typically below 100 milliseconds for general web browsing and under 50 milliseconds for gaming and real-time applications.


Balancing Latency and Bandwidth for Optimal Performance

Achieve better real-time communication quality with the Digital Samba

In today's interconnected world, achieving optimal real-time communication quality is crucial for businesses and remote collaborations. Digital Samba offers advanced features, reliable infrastructure, and optimised network routing to minimise latency and maximise bandwidth utilisation. 

Experience seamless interactions and enhanced video conferencing by embracing Digital Samba as your go-to solution. Unlock the full potential of real-time collaboration in the digital era.

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