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What Does Capacity Mean?

In the context of networks, capacity is the complex measurement of the maximum amount of data that may be transferred between network locations over a link or network path. Because of the amount of intertwined measurement variables and scenarios, actual network capacity is rarely accurate.


Capacity is also known as throughput.

Techopedia Explains Capacity

Capacity depends on the following variables, which are never constant:

  • Network engineering
  • Subscriber services
  • Rate at which handsets enter and leave a covered cell site area

Wireless carriers are pushed to increase network capacity to accommodate user demand for high-bandwidth services. Until recently, subscribers used wireless networks to make calls or send Short Message Service (SMS)/Multimedia Message Service (MMS) messages. Today, capacity is required to handle increased subscribers and additional services, including:

  • Web browsing
  • Facebook updates
  • Digital file downloads, like e-books
  • Streaming audio/video
  • Online multiplayer games

Because of marginal network capacity costs, providers focus on offering packaged and a la carte services, such as location-based add-ons and products, like ring tones, to create additional revenue with negligible operational expense effect.


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Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.