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Question of the Month – May

Question: What does Mbps mean?

When looking at almost anything to do with Internet hardware and services, you’ll frequently encounter the acronym Mbps. For example, you may be told that your Internet provider can offer you speeds of up to X Mbps… but what does this mean?

Mbps stands for “megabits per second,” which is the scale used by the Internet industry to determine speed. Many people mistakenly think that any service that promises to run at X Mbps equates to X megabytes per second; however, this is not the case: The two are very different. A megabit is equivalent to 0.125 megabytes, so if your Internet service provider tells you that you can get 30 Mbps, you will be downloading at a speed of 3.75 megabytes per second.

Bits have been used to measure data travelling through systems since long before the Internet; the word is short for “binary digit,” and that is the form in which all computer information is stored and transmitted. So, next time you wonder why your 150 MB album download doesn’t take three seconds to download via a 50 Mbps Internet connection, remember that you’re downloading in bits, not bytes.