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Mbps vs. MBps: Understanding the difference

Samantha Cossick

Jan 2, 2021 — 3 min read

Understand the difference between megabits per second and megabytes per second and how they affect file downloads and speeds.

mbps vs mbps

When it comes to understanding the internet, there’s a lot of terms and acronyms to know. Perhaps one of the most difficult is Mbps vs. MBps. What’s the difference? It may seem small, but that capital “B” in the second one makes a difference.

What’s the difference between Mbps vs. MBps?

The main difference between the two terms comes down to bits vs. bytes. The first acronym, Mbps, with a lowercase “b,” refers to megabits per second, while the second, MBps, with a capital “B,” stands for megabytes per second.

“Megabits per second” (Mbps) measures download and upload speed. For example, your favorite movie in HD maybe 12 GB in size and to download it using a 10 Mbps internet plan would take nearly three hours. However, with a 500 Mbps internet plan, you’d have your movie in about three minutes. 

The phrase “megabytes per second” (MBps) is used to indicate the rate at which a file is downloaded or uploaded. For example, AT&T TV recommends speeds of 25 Mbps for streaming live TV, which does not involve downloading and saving a file. But when downloading a video game, the rate at which you download the file might be 100 MBps.

While both are terms related to measurements, they’re used differently. Megabits per second is commonly used when talking about internet upload and download speeds, or the rate at which information is uploaded or downloaded based on your connection speed. You may also see this referred to as bandwidth. 

A quick guide on data measurements

Don’t let these abbreviations trip you up! Here are some other common data measures that denote file size/data amounts, listed from smallest to largest:

  • 1 Byte = 8 bits
  • 1 Kilobyte (kB) = 1,024 Bytes
  • 1 Megabyte (MB) = 1,024 Kilobytes
  • 1 Gigabyte (GB or Gig) = 1,024 Megabytes
  • 1 Terabyte (TB) = 1,024 Gigabytes

From bits to megabytes

1 Byte = 8 bits

1 Mbps = 1,000,000 bits = 125,000 Bytes 

1 MB = 1,000,000 Bytes or 8,000,000 bits

A little bit for thought

Something to keep in mind to avoid confusion: “Megabyte” is interpreted differently depending on the field that uses it. For most of us, it means what we’ve defined here: a multiple of the byte for digital information. But, in the software development world, it is used to describe a computer’s memory as well as the size of a formatted floppy disk (remember those?). 

How do Mbps and MBps affect my online activities?

As mentioned above, both Mbps and MBps come into play when you’re downloading things from the internet — everything from loading a webpage to downloading music and movies to streaming TV.

The time it takes to download will vary based on the size of the file and how fast of an internet connection you have. Other factors can affect download times as well, such as whether you are downloading using an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi, or whether you are connected to residential or business internet.

But what if you already have high Mbps, but are still experiencing slow internet? If you have an appropriate download speed, but are still having trouble with activities such as gaming or video-chatting, then latency, not bandwidth, might be the problem. Learn the difference between bandwidth and latency and find out how to troubleshoot for this issue.

How long does it take to download a website, music and videos?

Here’s approximately how long it would take to download the following media types at various connection speeds:

The bottom line: The larger the file size, the longer it takes to download 

As you can see, the larger the file size the longer it’s going to take to download at slower speeds. This is why it’s so important to take your online activities into consideration when choosing an internet speed. Take this 15-second quiz to see what speed you need!

Samantha Cossick

Written by:

Samantha Cossick

Contributor, Former Senior Content Strategist

Samantha is a key contributor to Allconnect covering broadband services. She graduated with a journalism degree from West Virginia University and spearheaded the growth of Allconnect’s Resource Center. Prior to … Read more

Shannon Ullman

Edited by:

Shannon Ullman

Editor, Broadband Content

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