Paul Williams
Paul Williams

When shopping for Internet services, buying a router, or measuring your Internet speeds, chances are you’ve seen the term “Mbps” in commercials and packaging. But what is Mbps? For those unfamiliar with the term, it stands for “megabits per second,” and, as the name implies, the metric is the industry standard for determining network performance.

You may also see a deceivingly similar acronym while on the hunt for the right router or service: MBps. The capital B in that term stands for bytes, which are different from bits. Both Mbps and MBps are measures of information on the network, but they’re usually used in disparate contexts. Here’s a quick definition before we explain in more detail:

●     Mbps stands for megabits per second.

●     MBps stands for megabytes per second.

It’s important to note that megabits are very different from megabytes. A megabit is equal to 0.125 megabytes—which means that when an internet service provider advertises speeds of 15 Mbps, your download speeds will be 1.875 megabytes per second.

Sound a little confusing? Read through this article for a complete explanation of the difference between Mbps and MBps, as well as helpful information on download speeds and network performance. If you know what you’re looking for, you can also click or tap one of the links below to head straight to that section.

Mbps vs MBps

As noted in the definition above, the difference between Mbps and MBps is that the former is a measure of megabits per second, and the latter is a measure of megabytes per second. But why do these two measures even exist in the first place? It has to do with the history of computing and the ways that data has been transferred and stored.

Let’s look at the meaning of each term in more detail and discover how they matter for your internet speeds and user experience.

Mbps meaning

Internet speeds are most commonly measured in Mbps (megabits per second). A bit is a way to measure data; when downloading a funny image, for instance, you may use a few dozen megabits. If you see an internet service or router touting its “download speeds” as, let’s say, 25 Mbps, what they’re telling you is that that is how quickly you’ll be able to load web pages, stream video, or download documents using their service or device.

What does MBps stand for?

MBps stands for Megabytes per second. The term MBps is most commonly shortened to the familiar MB, or megabyte. Bytes are the name for the units of memory that computers possess, and a Megabyte is about a million bytes. There’s a handy chart below to explain the different unit sizes.

Technically speaking, you could measure your internet speed in MBps instead of Mbps. However, Mbps is the most common option among most brands. That means it’s important not to be deceived: if you see a brand offering “1 gig” internet speeds, they’re not actually offering a GB (gigabyte) of speed per second. More likely, they’re selling 1 gigabit per second speeds — which is about 1/10th of what a gigabyte per second would be.

The history of the terms

The term “bit” comes from a shortened version of “binary digit,” which is the format in which computer data is stored. While “Mbps” is a relatively abstract term for most computer users, the reason bits are used instead of bytes to measure internet speed is that historically, data has always been measured in bits as it travels over wires.

Even in the pre-internet days, the bit was the industry standard for speed metrics, and that term has continued to be used to this day. On the other hand, hard drives have always had their storage measured in bytes of data. This history is the likely reason why internet speeds are measured in Mbps, even if most devices’ memories are measured in Megabytes. History lesson aside, you’re probably curious to know how all of this applies to you.

How do I know what internet speeds are fast enough for my usage?

When you’re on the market looking for the right internet provider for your needs, the primary unit you’ll be looking at is Mbps. That’s because, as an industry standard, most services measure the speed of their internet in Mbps.

If you’re looking at an ad for an internet service boasting 50 Mbps, you may not have a clear idea of whether or not that’s fast enough to handle your online demands. Use the chart below to gain more informed insight into what each tier of internet speed will afford you:

Speed

Usage

5 – 20 Mbps Light web browsing, email and instant messaging, music streaming, and light video streaming.
20 – 50 Web browsing, HD video streaming, file downloads, video calls, and light gaming.
50 – 100 4K HD content streaming, HD multiplayer video gaming, and rapid file downloads.
100 – 200 Streaming 4K video or multiplayer gaming across multiple devices, higher-speed downloads.
200 – 1000+ Multiple devices streaming HD content, gaming, or downloading large files. Suitable for small business.

Most average internet users with households between one and five people will find internet speeds between 50 and 150 Mbps just about enough to do everything they want. If everyone you live with is a gamer who streams online, or you live with a group of professionals who all happen to work in video production, then it may be smart to consider opting for the higher ranges of internet speed.

If you run a small business, especially one that calls for several people using the same connection at the same time, it’s likely worthwhile to consider a higher speed internet connection. Whether your business is a quaint cafe with a dozen people working online or a small IT office with a team of programmers, you’ll need speeds of above 200 mbps to guarantee a smooth, uninterrupted connection. Of course, the more internet-intensive the business, the higher the internet speed it’s wise to invest in. Companies dealing with large quantities of data, like 4K HD video editing, may want to consider speeds as fast as 1000 Mbps.

It’s also important to note that, as devices and media formats become more sophisticated, internet speeds that are considered “average” may increase. In the early days of the internet, a 5 Mbps connection would have been more than enough for most consumers and professionals. In the future, 1000 Mbps connections may become the norm, especially if up and coming technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality continue to grow in popularity. Only time will tell.

Upload vs download speed

Another distinction you may want to know more about when browsing for the right internet service plan is upload vs download speed. The difference is pretty simple. Download speed measures how quickly your device can download information—like videos, games, website content, or files—from the internet. That’s the metric you’ll most often see listed prominently when you’re shopping for an internet package.

Sometimes, however, internet providers may also advertise their service’s upload speed. Don’t let that confuse you; upload speed measures how quickly you can post or upload information from your computer to the internet. Typically, upload speeds are a bit slower than download speeds, as most users download information and content far more often than they upload it. If your hobby or profession requires that you frequently upload content online — say, you stream online multiplayer video games — you should be sure to 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, so professionals who need to know the full capacity of their connection can get the information they rely on.

So, it seems like most internet providers measure their service’s speed in Mbps. Does that mean that MBps is something you should forget about? Not exactly.

When should I care about MBps?

As we said above, MBps is usually used as a measure of space on a hard drive. You’ve probably seen computers advertised as having a 500 GB hard drive. That refers to the total amount of space on the device, measured in gigabytes, not bits.

The average HD movie is about 1GB, so if you bought a computer with 500 GB, you could download 500 HD movies onto it before receiving a “Storage Full” notification.

If you’re curious about how the different units of measures relate to each other, take a look at this table:

Unit Equivalent
1 kilobyte (KB) 1,024 bytes
1 megabyte (MB) 1,048,576 bytes
1 gigabyte (GB) 1,073,741,824 bytes
1 terabyte (TB) 1,099,511,627,776 bytes
1 petabyte (PB) 1,125,899,906,842,624 bytes

Most home computers and other devices have a hard drive with around 256 to 500 gigabytes, and max out in the 1-2 terabyte range. If you run a medium-sized business that deals with plenty of large files, you may be interested in larger models.

How do Mbps and MBps relate?

When you download a file from the internet (either to your hard drive or to your cache by visiting a website), that file has a size. The size of the file can be measured in MB. Smaller files might be fractions of an MB, called a kilobyte (KB), and thousands of MB can be measured in gigabytes (GB).

Your internet provider’s Mbps will determine how quickly you can download files of different sizes. If your speed tops out at 5 mbps, you might have a hard time downloading a 10GB file. It could take quite a long time. However, if you’ve got 1000 Mbps internet service, that 10GB file might only take a minute or less.

That means that, if you were interested, you could actually measure your download speed in MBps or even GBps: gigabytes per second. While most providers measure downloads in Mbps, bits and bytes are just two separate measures of data per second.

The Importance of a responsive internet speed test

When measuring your internet speeds, it’s smart to make sure you’re using a responsive internet speed test, because it ensures you have uniform test results across devices, regardless of whether you are on a mobile or desktop device. By measuring your internet speeds this way, you can determine if your internet provider is delivering the speeds you’re paying for.

Another use of speed tests is to ensure your network can handle streaming content from services such as Hulu Plus or Netflix. Even with a high-speed internet connection, you can experience performance issues from having too many devices on your network. Gamers playing in online multiplayer arenas, professionals uploading and downloading sensitive work documents to their company’s cloud, and anyone who relies on fast internet speeds should all be sure to regularly use an internet speed test to ensure their network is performing to capacity.

If you’re not sure whether you’re getting your money’s worth or whether you need to upgrade your internet service—or if you simply want to test your internet speeds—follow these steps:

  • Find all of the internet-connected devices in your home. Laptops, desktop computers, tablets, phones, smart speakers, and gaming consoles are the most common.
  • Navigate to the Bandwidth Place internet speed test on each device.
  • Input your nearest server location or select “fastest server” and press “Start.”
  • Within 30 seconds, you’ll receive a real-time report on your download, upload, and ping
  • Check your internet service plan to ensure that the speed reading given by our test tool matches closely to their advertised claims.
  • You can also use our speed test comparison page to find out more about what your results may mean.

Note: Our speed test results are given in Mbps, or megabits per second.

If only one of your devices has a lower speed than expected, there may be a problem with that individual device’s internet capabilities. However, if many of your devices are unable to connect at the full speed you pay for, there may be an issue with your router, modem, or service provider. It may be worth calling your provider to find out how you can troubleshoot your devices before a repair technician has to be called.

Key takeaways

When on the hunt for the right internet provider, testing your internet speed, or looking for the right computer or other device, it’s important to know what Mbps is, as well as the difference between Mbps and MBps. Here are some key takeaways to remember:

  • Mbps means megabits per second, and is usually used as a way to measure internet download and upload speeds.
  • MBps means megabytes per second, and although it technically is another way one could measure internet speeds, it is much more uncommon. Megabytes (MB) are commonly used to measure storage capacity on devices.
  • For a typical household, between 50 and 150 Mbps should be enough to handle common internet activities like streaming movies and videos, multiplayer online gaming, video chatting, and downloading files.
  • Having a reliable and responsive internet connection is important for any household. You can use Bandwidth Place’s internet speed test to learn more about your internet download, upload, and ping speeds.

Paul Williams
Paul Williams

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.