What is Mbps?

Mbps stands for megabits per second, which is a way to measure the speed of your internet connection. The more Mbps you have, the faster your potential internet speeds.

Similarly, you may see internet speeds measured in Kbps or Gbps too. These are also measurements of speed and refer to kilobits per second and gigabits per second, respectively. And 1,000 Kbps equals 1 Mbps, while 1,000 Mbps equals 1 Gbps.

  • 1 Mbps = 1,000 Kbps
  • 1 Gbps = 1,000 Mbps

But how do Mbps work, and why don’t you always get the internet speeds you pay for? Let’s dig in a little and find out.

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Don’t confuse Mbps with MBps

Though
they look the same, Mbps and MBps measure two different things. Mbps stands for megabits per second and
measures speed. MBps stands for megabytes per second and measures file sizes or amounts of data
transferred.

How do Mbps work?

Only a certain amount of data reaches your device per second, which means it takes time to upload or download content.
The more Mbps you have, the faster that data reaches your device.

You can think of Mbps like filling your car’s gas tank. The pump can dispense only so much gas at once, so it takes time
to fill your tank from empty to full.

If we stick to that analogy of filling your gas tank, other things, like the diameter of the tube connected to the gas
pump, can slow down your tank filling time too. A narrow tube would be referred to as low bandwidth
when we’re talking about your internet connection.

Your internet connection type can also be guilty of slowing down your internet. Cable and fiber internet let your internet speed zoom past the speeds you might see with a DSL or satellite internet connection.

Last but not least, you might experience slow internet because you’re paying for a slow internet plan. This rings especially true if you’re trying to do certain things online or share your internet connection with other people. (We cover this more in our guide to how many Mbps you need.)

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Is your internet fast?

Ever wondered if your internet is fast? We’ve got answers to the
internet-speed version of “hot or not?” in our “is
it fast or not?
” guide.

What’s the difference between bandwidth and download speed?

Sometimes you’ll see bandwidth and download speed used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing.

  • Bandwidth: How much data your internet connection can handle at one time.
  • Internet speed: The fastest rate at which your data can travel with optimal bandwidth.

Use a highway to understand bandwidth

It’s helpful to use the analogy of a highway to understand bandwidth. Let’s say you have two cars traveling down a two-lane highway on opposite sides at the same time. Both cars can travel quickly because there are no other cars in their way.

But let’s add more cars to that highway. All of a sudden, 10 cars are trying to travel down the road at the same time. They all have to slow down because there’s no room to pass.

When talking about your internet connection, that means you’ll get faster speeds when less data is traveling across your network—and that could be data you sent and received or data another person or device sent and received.

But if more people and more devices start to use your internet connection, your bandwidth may not be enough to handle that much internet traffic, so your download and upload speeds will slow.

Similarly, if you move those 10 cars to a four-lane highway, they now have room to pass and can speed up. Having more bandwidth is like having your data travel on a four-lane (or wider) highway.