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Channel capacity is a much-used metric for the maximum amount of traffic or signal that can move over a particular infrastructure channel. It is useful in computer science, in electrical engineering, and in other disciplines evaluating the capacity of a channel or conduit.
The evident benefits of evaluating channel analysis make this term a ubiquitous one in IT. For example, engineers might be charged with figuring out how much data can flow over a particular fiber-optic network, or how much data can go through a WAN with both wired and wireless components. The burden of figuring out channel capacity, and the level of accuracy needed, may differ according to the needs of the system. Engineers might only look at a specific part of a network considered a “bottleneck,” or just estimate normal channel capacity for general purposes. Tools like the Shannon-Hartley theorem help engineers and others look at channel capacity in the presence of mitigating factors; in this case, the upper channel capacity taking into account a given amount of signal noise.