Mbps vs. Gbps: Do You Need Gigabit Internet?

You don’t need gigabit internet if all you do is check email and post on social media. You probably don’t even need gigabit internet if four people live in your household. A gigabit connection is ideal if you work from home and download huge files, run a public web server, or livestream your gameplay to Twitch.

But what’s the difference between a megabit and a gigabit? Is one faster than the other? Think of the difference as comparing 100 pennies to a single dollar. With internet speed, 1,000 megabits equal a single gigabit. Saying and writing 10 Gbps, for example, is just more efficient than 10,000 Mbps. A gigabit connection is twice as fast as a 500 Mbps connection.

We get it. Gigabit. Megabit. Mega pain in the brain. But don’t worry—we’re here to break down the technical details as simply as possible so you can determine if you need gigabit internet speeds or a slower connection.

Is your current speed in the megabit or the gigabit range?

Run our internet speed test to check your current speed, and then see if it matches your plan’s advertised speed.

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Do you need gigabit internet speeds?

Your need for gigabit internet speeds depends on what you do online. 

There are many good reasons why you should get the fastest internet available, like reducing download times and improving the quality of video streams. But gigabit internet can be overkill if you don’t need blazing fast speeds. You won’t notice a huge improvement when checking your email, for instance.

Here are some online activities where you won’t notice much of a difference and some where you will.

Less bandwidthMore bandwidth
  • Surfing the web
  • Checking email
  • Playing games online
  • Streaming music
  • Streaming 4K videos
  • Downloading large files
  • Video chatting
  • Livestreaming
  • Downloading games and updates
  • Streaming games
  • Streaming video

    Streaming high-resolution video is one of the most bandwidth-intensive things you can do online. If you have people streaming on multiple devices in your home, the speed requirements can add up fast. 

    For example, Netflix requires 25 Mbps of bandwidth per device when you stream in 4K. So if four people are streaming simultaneously, your total used bandwidth is 100 Mbps. Apple TV+ requires the same amount to stream in 4K, while Hulu is 16 Mbps per device at a minimum.

    To help, video services like Netflix and Hulu have a lot of tricks for keeping your viewing experience smooth, such as preloading (buffering) video in the background and lowering the video quality if your connection can’t handle the load. But even Netflix can’t help much if too many people try to stream at the same time.

    Gigabit internet is so fast that you could have 20 people stream in 4K at the same time and use only half of your available bandwidth.

    If you want to know the nitty-gritty details of speed requirements for video services, see how much speed you need to stream video.

    Do any providers offer gigabit internet in your area?

    Enter your zip code below to find out if there are any 1 Gbps or faster plans available to you.

    Video chat

    Video chat needs a fast connection, just like streaming 4K video. The big difference is that while Netflix needs a fast download speed, video chat needs both its upload and download speeds to be fast. This is where the type of connection becomes more important. 

    A gigabit cable connection probably has enough upload speed for a stable video call, but a gigabit fiber connection runs at gigabit speeds both ways. This makes it ideal for video chat like Zoom and Skype, as well as livestreaming on sites like Twitch

    If you want to find out more, check out what makes a good download and upload speed.

    Gaming online

    Gaming online doesn’t require a lot of bandwidth. Speed is still important for having your game play smoothly, but it’s latency, rather than bandwidth, that is most important. The higher your latency, the more lag you will experience when playing. Most gigabit connections (especially fiber) have really low latency—but you can often get the low-latency connection you need for online games without splurging on the fastest plan available.

    Want the fastest internet connection for gaming online?

    Verizon Fios is our top choice for the best internet provider for gaming due to its low latency. We list other top picks, too, based on pricing, availability, and more.

    Streaming games

    Game streaming is different from online gaming. Services like Stadia and PlayStation Now stream games to your devices from the cloud similar to how movies and TV shows stream from Netflix and Hulu. However, because games are interactive, you need good download and upload speeds for smooth gameplay.

    Stadia, for instance, requires a constant download speed of at least 35 Mbps to play in a 4K resolution. That can be problematic on a 100 Mbps plan when everyone else in the house wants to stream other content.

    To find out more about gigabit internet, check out the consumer’s guide to internet speed.

    Which providers offer gigabit internet and faster?

    Nearly all cable and fiber internet providers offer a gigabit plan with speeds of up to 940 Mbps or 1,000 Mbps, depending on the provider.

    Multigig internet is any connection above 1,000 Mbps. The fastest cable internet plan you can get today is 1,200 Mbps, and upload speeds typically reach up to 50 Mbps. Spectrum is the only exception, with upload speeds of 500 Mbps with its Gig plan in certain areas.

    The fastest fiber internet plan you can get is 10,000 Mbps, but most major internet providers like AT&T and Optimum top out at 5,000 Mbps for now—6,000 Mbps with Xfinity’s hard-to-find Gigabit Pro plan. All fiber connections have identical download and upload speeds.

    Enter your zip code below to see which internet providers are available in your area.

    ServicePlanTypeSpeedCostGet it
    Astound Broadband940 Mbps InternetCable, FiberUp to 940 Mbps$34.99–$49.99/mo.*†‡§||View Plan
    AT&TInternet 1000FiberUp to 940 Mbps$80.00/mo.#
    AT&TInternet 2000FiberUp to 2,000 Mbps$110.00/mo.**
    AT&TInternet 5000FiberUp to 5,000 Mbps$180.00/mo.††
    CenturyLinkCenturyLink Fiber GigabitFiberUp to 940 Mbps$65.00/mo.‡‡View Plan
    CoxCox GigablastCableUp to 1,000 Mbps$99.99/mo.§§View Plan
    EarthLinkFiber 1 GigFiberUp to 1,000 Mbps$89.95/mo.||||View Plan
    EarthLinkFiber 2 GigFiberUp to 2,000 Mbps$129.95/mo.||||View Plan
    EarthLinkFiber 5 GigFiberUp to 5,000 Mbps$189.95/mo.||||View Plan
    FrontierFrontier Fiber GigFiberUp to 940 Mbps$74.99/mo.##View Plan
    FrontierFrontier Fiber 2 GigFiberUp to 2,000 Mbps$149.99/mo.***View Plan
    Google Fiber1 GigFiberUp to 1,000 Mbps$70.00/mo.†††
    Google Fiber2 GigFiberUp to 2.000 Mbps$100.00/mo.†††
    MediacomInternet 1 GIGCableUp to 1,000 Mbps$59.99/mo.‡‡‡View Plan
    MetroNetPro InternetFiberUp to 1,000 Mbps$69.95/mo.§§§View Plan
    Optimum1 Gig InternetCable, fiberUp to 940 Mbps$65.00/mo.||||||View Plan
    Optimum2 Gig Fiber InternetFiberUp to 2,000 Mbps$105.00/mo.||||||View Plan
    Optimum5 Gig Fiber InternetFiberUp to 5,000 Mbps$165.00/mo.||||||View Plan
    SparklightFreedom Connect GigCableUp to 940 Mbps$75.00/mo.###View Plan
    SparklightGigaONE PlusCableUp to 1,000 Mbps$125.00/mo.****View Plan
    SpectrumSpectrum Internet® GigCableUp to 1,000 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)$89.99/mo. for 12 mos.††††View Plan
    Verizon FiosInternet 1 GigFiberUp to 940 Mbps$89.99/mo.‡‡‡
    Verizon FiosInternet 2 GigFiberUp to 2,048 Mbps$119.99/mo.§§§§
    WindstreamKinetic Internet by Windstream 1 GigFiberUp to 1,000 Mbps$69.95/mo.||||||||View Plan
    WOW! InternetInternet 1 GigCableUp to 1,000 Mbps$64.99/mo.####View Plan
    WOW! InternetInternet 1.2 GigCableUp to 1,200 Mbps$94.99/mo.§§§§§View Plan
    XfinityGigabit ExtraCableUp to 1,200 Mbps$70.00/mo.*****View Plan
    XfinityGigabit X3FiberUp to 3,000 Mbps$299.95/mo.†††††View Plan
    Ziply FiberFiber Internet GigFiberUp to 1,000 Mbps$60.00/mo.‡‡‡‡‡View Plan
    Ziply FiberFiber Internet 2 GigFiberUp to 2,000 Mbps$120.00/mo.‡‡‡‡‡View Plan
    Ziply FiberFiber Internet 5 GigFiberUp to 5,000 Mbps$300.00/mo.‡‡‡‡‡View Plan

    Mbps vs. Gbps: What’s the difference?

    The difference between Mbps and Gbps is the number of bits you can send and receive each second.

    In the days of dial-up, modem speeds were usually measured in kilobits per second (Kbps), like 28.8k and 56k. Modern-day broadband speeds are now measured in megabits per second (Mbps) or in gigabits per second (Gbps). Here’s how the bits stack up:

    • 1,000 bits = 1 kilobit
    • 1,000 kilobits = 1 megabit (or 1 million bits)
    • 1,000 megabits = 1 gigabit (or 1 billion bits)

    Internet speed in Mbps or Gbps doesn’t mean data travels at specific speeds like cars zooming down a freeway—all data travels at the same speed, whether you have a DSL, cable, or fiber connection. Internet speed is more about the amount of data sent along the line in any given second. The higher the megabits per second, the faster you can download a file.

    Imagine that your internet connection is a faucet and your provider cranks down on the knob. The water (data) trickles in a thin stream (1 Mbps) and slowly fills the sink. You then feel like you’ve aged an entire year just to get a full sink of water. That translates to a slow internet connection.

    But if your provider turns up the knob, your data flows like a waterfall (1,000 Mbps). You’re using the same faucet, only the sink fills up faster when more data flows out, and you’ve only aged a few seconds. That translates to a fast internet connection.

    Bits vs. Bytes: What’s the difference?

    Although internet speed is generally measured in bits per second, you might also see terms like “megabytes” and “gigabytes.” Bits and bytes are both units of data, but they’re used in different circumstances.

    • 1 bit = This is a single unit of data that is either a “1” or a “0”
    • 1 byte = 8 bits

    The term “bit” is typically associated with hardware and software. For instance, a 64-bit processor can handle a single data unit containing 64 bits. The term “byte” is typically associated with file size and storage because 100 GB is easier to remember and shorter to write than 800,000 Mb.

    The bottom line is that internet speed is measured in megabits (Mb) or gigabits (Gb) whereas storage and file size is measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). Note the use of the lower-case “b” for speed and the upper-case “B” for size. 

    If you want to know more, check out our article on the difference between bits and bytes.

    How to convert between Mbps and Gbps

    Because data rates are metric, converting between data rates is pretty easy. To move from one metric prefix to the next, you multiply or divide by 1,000. In other words, you just have to add or remove three zeros at the end of the number (or shift the decimal point by three places).

    For example, to find how fast a 1,200 Mbps internet connection is in kbps, you would multiply by 1,000:

    1,200 × 1,000 = 1,200,000 kbps

    To convert this same speed to gigabits per second, you would divide by 1,000:

    1,200 ÷ 1,000 = 1.2 Gbps

    You don’t normally have to convert between bits and bytes (unless you’re trying to manually estimate how long a download would take), but to do so, just multiply the number of bytes by eight, or divide the number of bytes by eight.

    1,200 Mb = 150 MB

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    FAQ about gigabit internet

    Do internet speeds go faster than a gigabit?

    The fastest speeds available for residential internet top out at around 10 Gbps using fiber.

    Of course, if you look at the infrastructure that the internet is built on, you can find connections carrying much more data. For example, the undersea cables that connect continents measure their bandwidth in terabits per second (Tbps). That’s 1,000 faster than a gigabit per second.

    How do I get gigabit Wi-Fi?

    You can get gigabit Wi-Fi by purchasing a router and a wireless device (smartphone, laptop) supporting Wi-Fi 6 or newer. Smartphones with Wi-Fi 6 can reach around 850 Mbps in real-world speed at close range, while laptops can handle more at around 1,450 Mbps. Devices based on the newer Wi-Fi 6E spec may give you better speed overall, especially if you use the new 6 GHz band.

    If you’re in dire need of an upgrade, we have a few ideas based on in-house testing:

    Be sure your wireless devices support gigabit speeds before you invest in a new gigabit-capable router. Also, keep in mind that having a router and a device capable of gigabit speeds will do you no good if your internet connection is your slowest point. Even if your phone can handle 850 Mbps in real-world speed, 400 Mbps is the most you’ll get from a 400 Mbps internet plan.

    The verdict: Gigabit internet isn’t for everyone

    You don’t need a gigabit connection if all you do is surf the internet, check your email, and stream low-quality music. Gigabit plans aren’t exactly cheap, so there’s no need for the added expense if you’ll never utilize the boost in speed.

    Consider your online activities before taking the gigabit plunge. Livestreaming and lossless audio streaming require a wider data pipeline than watching cat videos on YouTube. Knowing the difference between megabits and gigabits is a great tool for gauging what you need against all the hype surrounding gigabit connectivity—now that you know, you can pay for gigabit internet only if you truly need it.

    Author -

    Kevin Parrish has more than a decade of experience working as a writer, editor, and product tester. He began writing about computer hardware and soon branched out to other devices and services such as networking equipment, phones and tablets, game consoles, and other internet-connected devices. His work has appeared in Tom’s Hardware, Tom's Guide, Maximum PC, Digital Trends, Android Authority, How-To Geek, Lifewire, and others. At HighSpeedInternet.com, he focuses on internet security.

    Editor - Cara Haynes

    Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.