What is the Difference Between Frequency and Bandwidth?

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What is the Difference Between Frequency and Bandwidth?

Frequency and Bandwidth are common terms used while discussing signal processing, digital communication and wireless networking. The following sections outline the difference between frequency and bandwidth.

A Bandwidth versus frequency comparison chart is added to quickly guide you through the differences between the two networking terms.

What is Frequency

In layman terms, frequency is repetition of a particular activity in a defined amount of time.

For example, how frequently do you change bed covers? Say, twice a week. Hence, the frequency of changing covers is 2 per week. Here, activity is changing covers, the time period is a week and the frequency is 2.

Similarly, in physics, frequency is defined by the number of complete wave cycles/oscillations completed in a unit of time. The time is measured in seconds and is denoted by T. Frequency is measured as complete cycles per second or Hertz and is denoted by f.

The relation between time period and frequency is shown below:


So, if it takes 2 seconds for an oscillation to complete then the frequency will be 0.5. This means that in one second only half oscillation will be done.

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Application of Frequency

Frequency is used in light, sound, electronics and computer networking.

Depending upon the frequency of the light wave, it is categorized as ultraviolet light and infrared light. Similarly, in sound the frequencies of sound wave determine whether it is audible to human ear or not. In computer networking, frequency tells the transfer rate of communication signals like in wireless networks.

Frequency is a term to denote the number of events that take place in a particular time. That event can be a radio signal, sound or light wave or even an electric current.

What is Bandwidth

The definition of Bandwidth depends upon the context. In case of signal processing, Bandwidth is simply the capacity of a band. It is the difference between the higher and lower frequency of a particular communication band/channel. It is commonly used in electronics like radio and television.

A television or radio bandwidth tells you the channels that you can watch or hear in that particular range of signal frequencies.

When bandwidth is used in computer networking, it refers to the rate of data transfer. The amount of data that a particular network can transfer in a given amount of time is called the bandwidth of that network. Internet service providers advertise their products using bandwidth and speed rates.

The more bandwidth a network has the more data it can transfer. You can check the bandwidth that you are getting at a particular time through various online speed test sites.

Many times you do not get the bandwidth that you signed up for. It can be due to the number of users using the connection or the way the internet is used.

Your method of internet usage may be one of the causes of slow net speed. Multiple open internet connections on the computer at the same time can cause you to approach the maximum bandwidth thereby slowing the speed.

Bandwidth Versus Frequency Comparison Chart

Bandwidth Frequency
1) It is the amount of data transfer per unit of time

2) It is the range of frequencies

It is the number of complete wave cycles per unit of time
It is measured in Hertz and bits per second It is measured in Hertz
Used in computers, televisions and radio Used while describing light, sound and electricity

Look at the unit of measurement to know which bandwidth is being talked about. A bits/sec unit is for computer networking bandwidth whereas hertz is for signal processing bandwidth.

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Wrapping up – Frequency vs Bandwidth

Frequency and bandwidth are interrelated terms. A range of frequencies is called a bandwidth. A large bandwidth will mean a large number of frequencies that it can cover. In networking it will mean a better transmission speed.

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