Mbps vs. Gbps: Do You Need Gigabit Internet?
Mbps vs. Gbps: Do You Need Gigabit Internet?
A gigabit is one thousand times bigger than a megabit, which means gigabit internet (1,000 Mbps or faster) is one thousand times faster than megabit internet. Most major internet providers now offer gigabit plans, but they’re overkill if you don’t need blazing fast speeds.
Most people have a general idea of how internet speed is measured, but it can be hard to grasp just how big the differences between these speeds are. Not to worry. We’re here to break down the technical details as simple as possible so you can determine if you need gigabit internet speeds or a slower connection.
Do I 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. And gigabit internet is simply the best connection for online activities that require lots of bandwidth.
Of course, not everything we do online requires a fast connection, so 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 bandwidth||More bandwidth|
Streaming 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.
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 a dozen people streaming in 4K at the same time and still be using less than 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.
Video chat needs a fast connection, just like streaming 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 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.
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 are streamed from Netflix and Hulu. However, because games require constant interaction, 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 is streaming other content.
To find out more about gigabit internet, check out the consumer’s guide to internet speed.
Which providers offer gigabit internet?
Most internet providers offer a gigabit plan. Many plans cap at 940 Mbps because internet providers use a small portion (overhead) of your gigabit bandwidth to help deliver a fast connection. All plans are subject to network congestion and forces of nature, so your actual speeds will fluctuate.
What separates fiber gigabit plans from cable gigabit plans is that fiber typically has identical upload and download speeds. With cable, your upload speed is just a small fraction of your download speed.
|AT&T||Internet 1000||Fiber||Up to 940 Mbps||$60.00/mo.*||View Plan|
|CenturyLink||CenturyLink Fiber Internet||Fiber||Up to 940 Mbps||$65.00/mo.‡||View Plan|
|Cox||Cox Gigablast||Cable||Up to 940 Mbps||$99.99/mo.##||View Plan|
|EarthLink||1 Gig Internet||Fiber||Up to 1,000 Mbps||$99.99/mo.***||View Plan|
|Frontier||FiberOptic Gig Service||Fiber||Up to 940 Mbps||$79.99/mo.‡‡||View Plan|
|Google Fiber 1 Gig||Fiber||Up to 1,000 Mbps||$70.00/mo.†††||View Plan|
|Google Fiber 2 Gig||Fiber||Up to 2.000 Mbps||$100.00/mo.†††||View Plan|
|Grande||Internet 940||Fiber||Up to 940 Mbps||$69.99/mo.||View Plan|
|Mediacom||1Gig||Cable||Up to 1,000 Mbps||$79.99/mo.**||View Plan|
|Metronet||1Gb/1Gb||Fiber||Up to 1,000 Mbps||$69.95/mo.||View Plan|
|Optimum||Optimum 1 Gig||Cable||Up to 940 Mbps||$75.00/mo.║||View Plan|
|RCN||Gig Internet||Cable||Up to 940 Mbps||$52.99–$59.99/mo.††||View Plan|
|Sparklight||GigaONE Plus||Cable||Up to 1,000 Mbps||$125.00/mo.‡‡‡||View Plan|
|Spectrum||Spectrum Internet Gig®||Cable||Up to 1,000 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)||$109.99/mo. for 12 mos.§||View Plan|
|SuddenLink||Internet 1 Gig||Cable||Up to 1,000 Mbps||$70.00/mo.#||View Plan|
|Verizon||Fios Gigabit Connection||Fiber||Up to 940 Mbps||$79.99/mo.##||View Plan|
|Windstream||Kinetic Gig||Fiber||Up to 1,000 Mbps||$57.00–$85.00/mo.###||View Plan|
|WOW! Internet||Internet 1 Gig||Cable||Up to 1,000 Mbps||$64.99/mo.║║||View Plan|
|WOW! Internet||Internet 1000||Cable||Up to 1,000 Mbps||$74.99–$99.99/mo.||View Plan|
|Xfinity||Gigabit||Fiber||Up to 1,200 Mbps||$70.00–$84.99/mo.†||View Plan|
|Xfinity||Gigabit Pro||Fiber||Up to 2,000 Mbps||$299.95/mo.†||View Plan|
|Ziply Fiber||Internet Gig||Fiber||Up to 1,000 Mbps||$60.00/mo.††||View Plan|
* Ltd. avail/areas for 12 mos, plus taxes & equip. fee. Autopay & Paperless Bill req’d. $10/mo equip. fee applies.
† for the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.
‡ Rate requires paperless billing. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply. Speeds may not be available in your area. Maximum download/upload speed of up to 940 Mbps via a wired connection.
** For the first 12 months. Plus, activation, installation and monthly modem rental fees.
║ for Life. Plus taxes, fees and other charges. Includes Auto Pay and Paperless Billing. Price for Life. Customer must remain in good standing and up to date on bill payments to remain on Price For Life.
# For 1 year. Plus taxes, fees and other charges. Includes Auto Pay and Paperless Billing.
†† for 12 months.
*** with a 12 month contract.
‡‡ plus $10/mo. Wi-Fi router service fee. For 12 months. Actual speeds may vary. Activation, Internet Infrastructure Surcharge ($3.99/mo.), taxes & other fees apply. Services subject to availability and all applicable terms and conditions.
††† Terms and Conditions: Plus taxes and fees. Service not available in all areas. If you live in an apartment or condo, Google Fiber’s ability to construct and provide Fiber is subject to the continued agreement between Google Fiber and the property owner. Upload/download speed and device streaming claims are based on maximum wired speeds. Actual Internet speeds are not guaranteed and may vary based on factors such as hardware and software limitations, latency, packet loss, etc.
‡‡‡ $10 charge for each add’l 100GB; Up to $50/mo.
## w/ Auto Pay + taxes.
### For the first 12 months. Price includes $8.00 promotional credit.
║║ With enrollment in AutoPay & paperless billing. Equipment & speed availability vary by area. $10 Off for 12 Months on Regular Rate of $74.99.†††† For 12 months.
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, modems 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)
We think of internet speed in terms of time. If your internet connection were a faucet and your provider cranked down on the knob, the water (data) merely trickles in a thin stream (1 Mbps) and slowly fills the sink. If your provider turns up the knob, data flows like a waterfall (1,000 Mbps). It’s the same faucet, only the sink fills up faster when more data flows out.
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 just 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
FAQ about gigabit internet
Do internet speeds go faster than a gigabit?
The fastest speeds available for residential internet are multigigabit fiber connections, which currently top out at around 2 Gbps. 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?
Since no single online activity comes close to requiring a gigabit connection on its own, most people interested in gigabit internet have a lot of devices to connect. The most convenient way to connect them all is over Wi-Fi unless your application demands a wired connection.
Keep in mind that your wireless connection is only as fast as the slowest link in the chain. For example, your speed depends on two factors: your router and your device. If your router can’t handle wireless gigabit speeds, it will turn into a bottleneck for all wireless devices that support gigabit connections. If your wireless device can’t handle gigabit speeds, it will bottleneck your internet connection. Upgrading to one of the best Wi-Fi 6 routers you can buy won’t magically boost your wireless speed if your tablet supports only a 433 Mbps connection.
If you need to upgrade your router, check out our review of the fastest routers for gigabit internet. However, a good rule of thumb is to make sure that your devices can support wireless gigabit speeds before you buy a gigabit wireless router. Check the device specifications on the manufacturer’s website.
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
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.