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What Is Channel Use?

T.S. Adams
T.S. Adams

Channel use is a measurement standard used in telecommunication fields and signal processing, measuring the speed and capacity of a specific information channel. Measuring channel use allows for a good approximation of how efficiently a transmission source is operating, in addition to providing a reasonable approximation of the length of time it will take to send information from point A to point B along a particular channel. In general, the higher the channel use figure, the quicker information travels through the virtual pipeline.

The primary measurement standard for channel use is in bits per second. This indicates the maximum number of bits that can pass through a particular channel in any given second. Note that this is, by necessity, a changing figure, because as with all transmission methods, natural fluctuations in signal rate occur. This principle is evident every time you download something from the Internet. The download speed is never just a static figure; it ebbs and flows slightly depending on attendant circumstances concerning the connection.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

As a result of this variability, channel use is best viewed as an average. Although channel use is an immediate statistic, a more useful measure of channel use is considering not what the specific data rate was at any one particular time, but rather what the average data rate is over a much longer sample period. This provides a more meaningful measurement of the pipeline's operation in real-world applications.

Taking a snapshot — a single measurement — of channel use at a particular time might reveal that the pipeline is operating at 500 bits per second. However, when taking an average of the usage rate over a two-week period, it might come to light that the average rate is no more than 250 bits per second, a substantial difference. This is why using channel use as an average, utilizing the median measure of channel use over a relatively long perio, affords the best measure of the channel's speed.

Also note that channel usage is measured as bits of information enter the data pipeline; not as they exit. This means that channel usage is not a reliable measure of error rate along the pipeline. In other words, taken on its own, the channel usage statistic does not offer a way to determine how many of those bits "survived" their journey. For this reason, remember that channel usage is not a measure of reliability; it is a measure of raw speed alone.

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