The Difference Between Bit Rate vs. Bandwidth

Key Takeaways

  • Bit rate defines the amount of data or information that is transmitted from a source during a specified time period.

  • Bandwidth is the maximum rate at which bits can be transferred from a source to a destination across a given path or medium. 

  • Advanced communication technologies such as 4G and 5G accommodate multiple channels and more data transfer, offering higher bandwidth compared to conventional communication systems. 

  Wireless Communication

Data transmission and reception are vital parts of any communication system

In communication systems, bit rate and bandwidth are often used interchangeably, and there can be a lot of confusion regarding the difference between the bit rate vs. bandwidth. Technically, bit rate and bandwidth are two different entities; bit rate is the rate at which information is transferred in a communication channel, whereas bandwidth is the maximum bit rate of a communication system. In this article, we will compare bit rate vs. bandwidth to clear up any confusion regarding these two terms.

Bit Rate

In today’s world, data is critical. Data is transmitted from one point to another through different mediums to make modern communication possible. According to information theory, a bit is indicative of information or data. The bit rate can be also referred to as the data rate.

Bit rate defines the amount of data or information transmitted from a source during a specified time period. Bit rate describes the speed at which the data or signals are propagated from source to destination. Generally, bit rates are expressed in bits per second or bytes per second. 

What Is a Byte?

Bit and byte are two closely related terms used in digital communication. A byte is a collection of 8 bits. Usually, a byte is a unit used to measure the volume of data or information being transferred or received. The speed of data or signal transmission is always represented using bits per second. 


The bit rate is a major parameter that distinguishes different technologies from each other; in regular LTE, the bit rate is lower than in 4G LTE. 5G network speed is higher than 4G LTE. New communication technologies are introduced to meet the constant need for increased bit rate and to enhance the quality and performance of communication systems. As the demand for communication increases, the bit rate of modern communication networks is measured in megabits per second or megabytes per second. The evolution of 5G technology is gradually changing the expression to gigabits per second and, in the future, terabits per second will be achieved.

In the field of communication, the main aim of research and development is to achieve higher bit rates. As the bit rate increases, it maximizes the ability of the communication channel to transfer bits in a second. The bit rate can be calculated from the bandwidth of a system. If the bandwidth of a communication channel is known, divide it by 8 to calculate the bit rate. Let’s take a closer look at bandwidth and how it relates to bit rate. 

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is synonymous with the maximum bit rate of a communication network. Bandwidth is the data transferring capacity of a communication channel or medium. It is the maximum rate at which bits can be transferred from a source to a destination across a given path or medium. Bandwidth indicates how much time is required to transmit or receive information over the given communication network; it tells us the number of bits per second that can be transmitted or received.

Consider a communication network of bandwidth 100 Mbps. The maximum bit rate that is possible over the communication channel is 100 Mbps. However, the actual bit rate may be less than 100 Mbps and can never cross the bandwidth value. Bandwidth also is expressed in Mbps, Gbps, or Tbps.

A large bandwidth is recommended in communication channels, as a larger bandwidth supports higher bit rates and enhances the quality and performance of the channel. Advanced communication technologies such as 4G and 5G accommodate multiple channels and more data transfer, therefore offering higher bandwidth compared to conventional communication systems.

Below is a table summarizing the differences between bit rate vs. bandwidth. 

Bit Rate vs. Bandwidth

Bit Rate

Bandwidth

Defines the amount of data or information that is transmitted from a source during a specified time period

The maximum rate at which bits can be transferred from a source to a destination across a given path or medium

Indicates the speed of data transmission

Indicates the number of bits per second a channel or network can transmit or receive

Actual data transfer rate

Maximum data transfer rate possible

Bit rate value is less than bandwidth

Greater than or equal to bit rate

Unit of measurements can be Bps, Mbps, Gbps, or Tbps

Unit of measurements can be Bps, Mbps, Gbps, or Tbps

Influenced by the properties of the transmission or receiving system

Independent of the transmission or receiving system properties


A clear understanding of the difference between bit rate vs. bandwidth is necessary to design reliable, qualitative, and high-performance communication networks. Designing communication systems based on 5G technology is easier with Cadence’s PCB design and analysis tools.

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