What Are Mbps and How Many Do I Need?

What Are Mbps and How Many Do I Need

When choosing your ISP provider, you should always make an informed decision; otherwise, you could end up purchasing a package that isn’t suitable for your needs. You’ll either end up paying too much for services you’ll never use, or you won’t buy enough for your needs.

To know exactly what you are getting, you should know a little bit about the technology that delivers your internet. Understanding terms like Mbps, bandwidth, and latency will help you make the right decision on what Mbps are and how many you actually need.

What Are Mbps?

Mbps are one of the main factors affecting the price of an internet package. Mbps means megabits per second, a data unit that is used to indicate the bandwidth and throughput of your internet connection. To put it simply: Mbps tells you how fast you can download or upload information.

The higher the number of Mbps, the more you can download in the same amount of time. Simple enough, right? Well, this is where things get a little more complex, because there’s a difference between Mbps and MBps!

You might think that MBps is simply a typo that somebody overlooked during editing, but MBps means something completely different from Mbps:

  • While Mbps means megabits per second, MBps means megabytes per second.
  • Megabits will tell you the available speed in a fixed amount of time; megabytes will tell you the amount of data in that same time (how much you can download or upload).

The main difference between bits and bytes is that one byte equals 8 bits. Since that means that one bit is 1/8th of a byte, you can calculate how many MB of data you can download by dividing your Mbps by 8.

If you have a 100Mbps connection, you will be able to download 100Mbps/8 = 12.5MBps. This means each second, you’ll be able to download 12.5MB of data. So if your internet is slow, you just need some Mbps, right? Well, it’s a bit more complex than that.

While most ISPs mention Mbps as an indication of their high-speed internet packets, those are not the only things that affect the speed of the network. Mbps indicate the bandwidth and throughput of your internet connection. Which means:

  • Bandwidth is defined as the maximum amount of data packets that can be transmitted through a channel (your internet connection) in a fixed amount of time.
  • Throughput, on the other hand, is the actual amount of data packets that are successfully transmitted through that channel (your internet connection) in that same amount of time.

This means that while your bandwidth is listed at 100Mbps, the actual throughput might be lower, based on other important factors that affect network performance, such as network latency and packet loss.

Slow Internet Can Be Caused by Three Different Factors

If you often have issues with videos buffering, slow website loading or you keep getting disconnected from your games, you will have to test network performance.

More Mbps might not fix your problem because your internet speed depends on more than just that. You might get a speedtest result like the one below and still experience issues while browsing, streaming, and gaming.

So if your download and upload are fine, what else can cause this? To thoroughly test your network performance, you will have to measure the following:

  • Throughput – This is how much data is actually being transmitted per second (what is referred to as the current speed of your network). In the example above, you have 117Mbps download and almost 15Mbps upload, which is close enough to the advertised bandwidth of 120Mbps/15Mbps.
  • Network latency – Network latency tells you how fast the data packets actually reach their destination. For example, if you are using streaming services such as Netflix, you will need very good latency so that the data packets can reach their destination (your TV or computer) as fast as possible. It is often measured as ping – the time it takes to for the packet to do a roundtrip – a ping of 7ms (milliseconds) is great for anything. Everything up to 50ms is tolerable.
  • Packet loss – This result tells you whether all data packets reach their destination or just some of them. Ideally, you should have no packet loss at all. If you do, it can cause slow speeds, disconnects, and long loading times as well.
    • This can be tested in your Windows by hitting your Windows button and typing in “cmd” to start Command Prompt. Once there, you should enter the command to ping your computer’s IP address.
      • When you start command prompt, type in “ipconfig” (without quotation marks) and hit Enter. Search for “IPV4 address.” This is the address you want to ping. In the example below, it’s 192.168.0.11.
      • Then, write “ping 192.168.0.1” (without quotation marks) and hit Enter.
      • In the example below, you see there is no packet loss at all, meaning the connection is stable.

Packet loss and latency is most often the issue when you, as the user, are just too far away from the main network cable your ISP has for your area. Always make sure to check that, too, when choosing your internet package.

No amount of Mbps can fix your internet connection if you’re just too far away for all the data communication to travel without getting lost or taking too long to reach you. Once you are sure that you will not have such issues, you can safely choose your ideal Mbps package.

How Many Mbps Do I Need?

Everything you do online costs bandwidth, i.e. Mbps. The amount of Mbps depends on how you plan to use your internet, how many devices will be connected, and how many users there will be. It’s not the same if you watch movies on your tablet or on your 4K TV either.

The higher the definition, the more MB per second need to be downloaded (streamed) for you to enjoy a buffering-free experience. The more users your household has, the more devices are connected at the same time, meaning the more bandwidth and Mbps you will need.

This table lists the optimal Mbps depending on various internet-based activities. Each new row shows activities in addition to the row above it.

ActivityMinimum MbpsOptimal Mbps
+ Browsing / Social Media / Emailing1.5 Mbps5 Mbps
+ Music Streaming / Skype Calls3 Mbps10 Mbps
+ SD (standard definition) videos / Browser Games5 Mbps15 Mbps
+ HD (high definition) videos  / Online Gaming15 Mbps30 Mbps
+ UHD and 4K videos / Competitive Online Gaming40 Mbps100 Mbps

**Note that the above minimum Mbps are recommendations based on a single-user household.**

How to Determine the Amount of Mbps You Need

You will use more of your bandwidth when you are streaming a 4K video than when you are browsing on your PC. While browsing rarely takes more than 1 or 2 Mbps, 4K definition video streaming often takes as much as 60Mbps and more.

Think about how you spend your time online. Are you streaming and playing games? Do you have a 4K TV at home? Are you living alone or with others in the house?

All these factors affect the amount of Mbps you need. The more of you there are, the more Mbps you need. The same goes for the number of devices that are simultaneously using the internet. All of them will take a chunk of your bandwidth.

This means that having a 4K movie running, playing games on a console, and being in a Skype call will require at least 100Mbps. List all your activities, and then refer to the table above to find your optimal amount of Mbps.