Great Connections Happen Here.™

Burstable Bandwidth vs. Fixed Bandwidth: Making the Right Choice for Your Business

burstable bandwidth

For many business leaders, finding a balance between network capacity, cost, and user experience is a daunting task. But as more organizations depend on data-intensive cloud applications for their critical operations, reliable Internet connectivity is vital for productivity and operational efficiency.

Experts estimate that 200 ZB of data will be stored in the cloud by 2025,1 so if your bandwidth plan is too limited, you’ll likely grapple with challenges like unpredictable Internet usage patterns and spikes in traffic that negatively affect your network’s performance. That’s where the flexibility of burstable bandwidth service comes into play. In this blog, we’ll explore the benefits of burstable bandwidth and how it can help your business meet new Internet traffic demands.

What Is Burstable Bandwidth?

Burstable bandwidth is a flexible, cost-effective way to scale bandwidth for increased network speeds as needed. Unlike fixed bandwidth, which allocates a consistent level of bandwidth regardless of usage, burstable bandwidth allows users to ‘burst’ above their bandwidth limit to handle traffic fluctuations. Burstability is especially helpful for organizations that need to transfer large files or access cloud-based applications throughout the day without latency issues or other disruptions.

What Is the 95th Percentile Rule?

The 95th percentile rule is used to calculate and charge for burstable bandwidth. The rule works by measuring the total amount of data transferred over the network every five minutes. Your Internet service provider then sorts these five-minute samples from highest to lowest and discards the highest data rates — the top 5%. The highest remaining data rate is the 95th percentile, and it’s the rate at which the entire month is billed. This method provides a balance, allowing businesses extra bandwidth when needed without significantly increasing the monthly bill.

What Are the Advantages of Burstable Bandwidth?

Burstable bandwidth can offer several advantages if your business experiences fluctuating Internet usage. Here’s why you need burstable bandwidth:


With burstable billing, you pay for a baseline bandwidth capacity that meets your company’s average needs rather than a high fixed bandwidth allocation. This approach saves money because you don’t have to pay high rates for a bandwidth capacity you may not fully use every month.


Burstable bandwidth plans provide more flexibility in handling fluctuating Internet usage. You can use more bandwidth during periods of high demand or traffic spikes without facing additional charges as long as the excess usage remains inside of the threshold.


Burstable bandwidth plans are easy to scale, so you can meet increased needs as your business grows without having to upgrade your Internet service plan.

Reduced Latency

Latency, which is the time it takes for data to travel from its source to the destination, can negatively impact network performance. With burstable bandwidth, your network can quickly allocate additional resources to handle sudden bursts of data, lowering latency for faster data transmission.

Burst Allowance

Burstability lets you take advantage of unused bandwidth capacity. If your average bandwidth usage is below the baseline, the unused portion is available for occasional bursts. This burst allowance makes it easier to handle temporary traffic surges without compromising the user experience.

Fair Billing

The 95th percentile rule ensures providers bill users fairly. By excluding the top 5% of the highest data samples from billing, your business is protected from being charged for occasional spikes in bandwidth usage that aren’t representative of your typical usage.

Application Performance

Real-time and cloud-based applications experience varying bandwidth requirements depending on the number of users or data transfers. Burstable bandwidth plans help ensure these critical apps run optimally during peak periods.

What Costs Are Involved in Burstable Bandwidth Billing?

The flexible nature of burstable bandwidth service makes it hard to pin down the costs in advance. As the only provider in the Greater Houston Area that offers burstability to help businesses avoid sudden slowdowns in Internet speeds, we can only speak for ourselves. However, a few typical costs associated with burstable billing include:

Baseline Bandwidth Cost

The baseline bandwidth cost refers to the fixed amount of Internet bandwidth you’re guaranteed to receive at any given time. This is the minimum capacity that you pay for, regardless of your actual usage. The base bandwidth cost is generally lower than the burstable capacity cost and serves as the starting point for billing.

Burstable Capacity Cost

The burstable capacity cost is the additional bandwidth you can temporarily use when you need increased network connectivity. It’s typically charged on a pay-as-you-go basis, so you pay only for the additional bandwidth used beyond your baseline allocation.

Overage Charges

If your burstable usage exceeds your base bandwidth capacity and surpasses the specified threshold for the 95th percentile, you may face overage charges. These charges are applied to the additional bandwidth used beyond the baseline and can vary depending on your provider’s pricing structure.

How Does Burstability Stack Up Against Fixed Bandwidth?

Fixed bandwidth, also known as “dedicated bandwidth” or “committed bandwidth,” provides a constant level of bandwidth at all times. While burstable bandwidth allows for temporary increases in bandwidth capacity when needed, fixed bandwidth offers a stable, consistent data transmission speed without fluctuations.

Fixed Bandwidth: Pros

Some advantages of fixed bandwidth include:

  • Dedicated Resources – Fixed bandwidth plans provide dedicated resources, meaning the allocated bandwidth is reserved solely for your use. This ensures your network connection isn’t affected by other users’ activities or traffic, resulting in a more reliable Internet experience.
  • Stable Usage – Fixed bandwidth only works well for businesses with extremely steady, predictable Internet usage that doesn’t experience any spikes or fluctuations.   

Fixed Bandwidth: Cons

A few disadvantages of fixed bandwidth plans include:

  • Bandwidth Constraint – Fixed bandwidth leads to your network being throttled down due to the inability to handle peak periods when you need it the most. 
  • Lack of Flexibility – Fixed bandwidth plans offer limited flexibility in adjusting to changing Internet usage. If your business experiences fluctuations in demand or needs more bandwidth for short-term projects, fixed plans may not provide the adaptability you need.
  • Poor Performance – Some applications, such as video conferencing, rely on low latency and consistent performance. Fixed bandwidth can offer stability but isn’t optimal for handling sudden traffic spikes, which can potentially affect application performance.

Get Started With Burstable Bandwidth From Houston’s Top Internet Service Provider

Burstable bandwidth can give your business the boost in speed your employees need to share large files, make video calls, and more without interruption. By partnering with a reliable provider, you can get started with a burstable bandwidth plan that helps you manage traffic surges and ensure you experience seamless connectivity so you always have the fast Internet speeds and performance you need for seamless operations.

Pure Speed Lightwave is the only provider in the Greater Houston Area that offers burstable bandwidth backed by reliable, responsive service. With over 1,600 lit locations and 3,300 on-net locations, you can count on us to deliver high-speed business Internet that meets your unique connectivity needs. Reach out to PS Lightwave today to get started with superior business Internet and burstability.



Share This Blog Post:



PS LIGHTWAVE, a leading telecommunications service provider headquartered in Houston, Texas, provides managed Ethernet Data Circuits, Internet, private network solutions and Voice over IP (VoIP) over one of the nation’s largest facilities-based private Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs). The switched Layer 2 network, backed by 24/7/365 Network Operations Center (NOC) support, encompasses approximately 5,500 route miles and 1,400 on-net locations and connects 100+ fault-tolerant multi-gigabit Ethernet rings for built-in redundancy, security, low latency, and high-availability. At PS LIGHTWAVE Great Connections Happen Here™.

For more information, please visit or call 832-615-8000.