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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 on your NBN plan, the faster your potential broadband 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.
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 fuel tank. The pump can dispense only so much petrol at once, so it takes time to fill your tank from empty to full.
If we stick to that analogy of filling your fuel 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. FTTP or HFC NBN connections let you zoom past speeds you would typically expect with other broadband technologies, going as far to offer gigabit (NBN 1000) speeds here in Australia.
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.)
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 travelling 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.
How fast is my internet?
If you're wondering how many Mbps your current NBN plan is capable of delivering, do yourself a favour and run a speed test on your NBN connection.
To run a speed test, just make sure the device you're reading this on is connected to your home WiFi and then hit the 'Start Speed Test' button below.