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What Is Commercial Bandwidth?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

Commercial bandwidth is a term typically used to refer to the needs of businesses with regard to Internet bandwidths, often based on needs for high amounts of data transfer. While the term was previously used in reference to telephone bandwidths, it has become associated outside of the telecommunications industry with data bandwidth for Internet access and use. In this usage, bandwidth basically refers to the amount of data uploaded or downloaded from a particular source through a network connection. Commercial bandwidth indicates a need for greater amounts of data streaming than is typically required for consumer-based Internet needs, other than high bandwidth multimedia applications.

The meaning of “commercial bandwidth” has changed since it was first used. Commercial bandwidth originally referred to telephone networks, with regard to the frequencies necessary for such networks to transmit voice data through a telephone line. While this term can still be used in this way within the telecommunications industry, it has evolved to refer to Internet bandwidth needs for commercial applications. Either usage of the term is accurate; the context in which it is used indicates the appropriate meaning.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

This more recent usage of “commercial bandwidth” refers to the way in which data is measured as it is transmitted through a network, usually an Internet network. “Bandwidth” refers to the rate at which data is transmitted, also called the “bit rate,” and is often measured in terms of maximum possible data sizes transferred along the network per second. While older systems would measure bandwidth in kilobits per second (kbit/s), networks in the early 21st century often measure bandwidth in megabits per second (Mbit/s). This amount of bandwidth is typically sufficient for most home consumers, though some individuals may require higher bandwidths, especially when streaming audio and video online or when playing online games.

Commercial bandwidth usually surpasses the speeds available through traditional or consumer bandwidth. This type of bandwidth can be provided in several hundred Mbit/s, while consumer bandwidth usually provides closer to half that speed for data transfers along such networks. Some companies can even provide commercial bandwidth in gigabits per second (Gbit/s), though such bandwidth can be quite expensive and may require special hardware to transfer data at such rates. This type of bandwidth is not typically restricted to commercial users, as a private consumer could utilize such speeds for data transfers, though the cost of such bandwidth is often prohibitive for an individual user not involved in online business.

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