Megabits vs. Megabytes and Why It Matters


Mbps means “megabits per second;” Mbps is a measure of the amount of data that can be transferred within one second, and it’s commonly used to quantify Internet speeds. When Internet service providers display a speed, it’s almost always the download speed. An Internet package listed as 8 Mbps means the connection can download eight megabits of data per second.

Gbps is “gigabits per second.” One gigabit is 1,000 megabits. Gigabit Internet connections are among the fastest connections in the United States right now, and are only available in certain areas.



Almost all data measurements, aside from Internet speeds, are quantified in megabytes or gigabytes, so this is the unit of measurement you’re probably more familiar with. A byte is 8 bits, so a megabyte is 8 megabits. A 1-terabyte hard drive (1,000 gigabytes) could also be called an 8-terabit hard drive.

File sizes and storage capacities are always listed in megabytes, which are abbreviated MB. Note the “B” is capitalized.

1 MBps = 8 Mbps.


Why it matters

If you’re not careful, you might end up paying for 1/8th of what you thought you were getting. For example, many would assume a 500 megabyte file would finish in 50 seconds with a 10 Mbps connection. In reality, you’d be waiting at least 8 times as long – almost 7 minutes.

Why is the internet one of the few products using bits rather than bytes? It was a marketing decision that evolved into standard practice. The reason marketers chose to use megabits instead of megabytes was because the larger numbers can make an Internet service seem faster to people who don’t know the difference.

If someone doesn’t understand the difference between bits and bytes, and he or she sees an ad for an Internet service offering 80 Mbps, then sees another ad for an Internet service offering 10 MBps, he or she could easily assume the 80 Mbps service is faster, when in reality, the speeds are the same. Understand what a Gbps really means can get even more confusing. A provider who advertised 125 MBps would be at an immediate disadvantage to the provider advertising 1 Gbps unless everyone understood the distinction. That’s counter intuitive from the previous example.

Obviously not everyone knows the difference between Mbps and MBps, or this wouldn’t be one of our frequently asked questions. That’s why we are here to provide the answer.


How Many Mbps is Enough? has built an awesome tool to help you determine how much download speed you need. Click here to figure out how many Mbps you need.


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