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In communication networks, such as Ethernet or packet radio, throughput or network throughput is the average rate of successful message delivery over a communication channel. This data may be delivered over a physical or logical link, or pass through a certain network node. The throughput is usually measured in bits per second (bit/s or bps), and sometimes in data packets per second or data packets per time slot.

The system throughput or aggregate throughput is the sum of the data rates that are delivered to all terminals in a network.

The throughput can be analyzed mathematically by means of queueing theory, where the load in packets per time unit is denoted arrival rate λ, and the throughput in packets per time unit is denoted departure rate μ.

Throughput is essentially synonymous to digital bandwidth consumption.


Maximum throughput

Users of telecommunications devices, systems designers, and researchers into communication theory are often interested in knowing the expected performance of a system. From a user perspective, this is often phrased as either "which device will get my data there most effectively for my needs?", or "which device will deliver the most data per unit cost?". Systems designers are often interested in selecting the most effective architecture or design constraints for a system, which drive its final performance. In most cases, the benchmark of what a system is capable of, or its 'maximum performance' is what the user or designer is interested in. When examining throughput, the term 'Maximum Throughput' is frequently used where end-user maximum throughput tests are discussed in detail.

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