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When shopping for ISPs, or measuring your Internet speed, you likely saw the term “Mbps.” But what does it mean? Simply stated, it stands for “megabits per second.” This metric is the industry standard for determining network performance.
Note that megabits are different from megabytes. A megabit is equal to 0.125 megabyte. This means that when an ISP advertises speeds of 15 Mbps, your download speeds are 1.875 megabytes per second. Due to confusion, megabytes per second (MBps) gets rarely used as a separate acronym.
Mbps in More Detail
As noted earlier, we commonly measure Internet speeds in Mbps (megabits per second). A bit denotes a binary data point; stored as either “1” or “0.” If you see an ISP advertising download speeds of 100 Mbps, it simply lets you know how fast downloads happen on their service
Technically speaking, it’s possible to measure Internet speed in MBps instead of Mbps. However, Mbps remains the most common option throughout the industry — by far. In short, it’s a standard.
The History of the Mbps Term
The term “bit” derives from a shortened version of “binary digit,” the format used to store computer data. Note that data typically gets measured in bits when transmitted. This tradition provides the reason to use Mbps instead of MBps. On the other hand, the tech industry measures storage (hard drives and memory) using bytes of data.
Is My Internet Speed Fast Enough?
When shopping for an ISP, expect to see download and upload speeds in Mbps. Remember, it’s an industry standard.
It also helps to understand the capabilities of an Internet service with download speeds of 50 Mbps. Use the chart below to learn what each tier of Internet speed provides:
|5 – 20 Mbps||Web browsing, email and instant messaging, music streaming, and video streaming.|
|20 – 50 Mbps||Web browsing, HD video streaming, file downloads, video calls, and online gaming.|
|50 – 100 Mbps||4K HD content streaming, HD multiplayer video gaming, and rapid file downloads.|
|100 – 200 Mbps||Streaming 4K video or multiplayer gaming across multiple devices, even faster downloads.|
|200 – 1000+ Mbps||Multiple devices streaming 4K HD content, gaming, or rapid downloading of large files. Suitable for small business.|
Most Internet users likely find that Internet speeds between 10 and 100 Mbps are fast enough for most uses. Things become more complex when multiple people are accessing the service simultaneously. Consider a higher service tier in this situation, especially when videogaming and streaming with 4K resolution.
When running a small business, consider a faster Internet connection. Work with your provider to determine the right service tier for your needs. Business Internet tiers also provide better service during an outage. Companies dealing with large quantities of data, like 4K HD video editing, must consider gigabit level service.
As devices and media formats become more sophisticated, expect Internet speeds considered to be average to increase. In the future, gigabit level connections might become standard, especially if AR and VR grow in popularity.
Upload Speed vs. Download Speed
When shopping for the right Internet service, know the differences between upload vs download speed. Download speed measures how quickly your device downloads information. Expect to see this metric prominently with ISPs.
ISPs also advertise their service’s upload speed. Upload speed measures how quickly information gets uploaded from a computer to the Internet. Typically, upload speeds are slower than download speeds. This makes sense as most users download content far more often than they upload it.
If your hobby or profession requires frequent uploads, pay attention to upload speeds when selecting an Internet service plan. Fortunately, Bandwidth Place’s Internet speed test also measures upload speed, as well as ping, latency, and jitter. Our test provides the information you need.
The Importance of an Accurate Internet Speed Test
When measuring Internet speeds, using an accurate and responsive Internet speed test becomes critical. It ensures uniform test results across devices, mobile or desktop. This approach plays a key role in determining your ISP delivers on its promised bandwidth.
Speed tests ensure your network successfully handles streaming content from services such as Hulu Plus or Netflix. Even with a high-speed Internet connection, performance issues happen. Perhaps too many devices are accessing your network? Simply stated, if you need high-speed service for whatever reason, regularly use an Internet speed test.
Maybe your ISP provides poor service? Perhaps you need to upgrade your service tier? Follow these steps to ensure you get the speed you need:
- Find all of the Internet-connected devices in your home. Laptops, desktop computers, tablets, phones, smart speakers, and gaming consoles are the most common. Don’t forget any Internet of Things (IoT) devices used for home automation.
- Navigate to the Bandwidth Place Internet speed test on each device if relevant. Obviously, there are no web browsers for a smart lock.
- Select the nearest server location or “fastest server” and press “Start.”
- Once finished, expect a real-time report on your download speed, upload speed, and ping.
- Check your Internet service plan to ensure the test results match the expected level of your service tier.
- Also use our speed test comparison page to learn more about your results.
If a device returned lower speed results, maybe it uses an older WiFi protocol? Also, if you use a dual-band router, the 5 GHz network boasts higher speeds than the 2.4 GHz network. If lower speeds are common, there may be an issue with your router, modem, or ISP. Give them a call for some extra troubleshooting. Perhaps a technician needs to make a visit?
When searching for the right ISP or testing your Internet speed, understanding the definition of Mbps becomes critical. Here are some key takeaways to remember:
- Mbps means megabits per second. It’s the industry standard for measuring Internet download and upload speeds.
- Megabytes (MB) are commonly used to measure storage capacity on devices.
- For a typical household, between 20 and 100 Mbps should be enough to handle common Internet activities. This includes streaming movies and videos, multiplayer online gaming, video chatting, and downloading files.
- Having a reliable and responsive Internet connection is important for any household. Use Bandwidth Place’s Internet speed test to learn more about your Internet download, upload, and ping speeds.
Paul Williams brings a wide range of experiences to his writing. He worked extensively in technology, as a software engineer, technical writer, and now a technology writer. Known as the leader of one of the top American Spacerock bands, his forward-looking music continues to be heard all over the world.