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Mbps is not Megabytes per second but “megabits” per second

N.B. If you’re knowledgeable about this subject, please leave a comment to refute or add to this post as we’re all trying to understand what makes good or crappy Internet.

One of the biggest confusions of consumers when purchasing Internet plan subscriptions is that they think Mbps means megabytes per second when in fact it means “megabits per second” and there’s a huge difference. It’s partly the telcos’ fault as they aren’t very gung-ho about these educational campaigns for consumers. I think they should start helping consumers understand what exactly “2Mbps” means in the real world application. Also they should start including a value called CIR or Committed Information Rate or the average bandwidth per x number of households in a given area. Now that’s useful!

Here’s a tool to help you calculate ideally how many kbps you should be getting with your Internet provider commitment.

http://www.easycalculation.com/bandwidth-calculator.php

In other words, if your telco is selling you a 2Mbps connection, your ideal burst speed (say you’re downloading a torrent) should peak at around 250KBps (that’s kilobytes per second not kilobits per second — remember that kbps is kilobits and KBps or KB/s is kilobytes). But that’s the best speeds. I don’t think it takes into account CIR. So if I’m using my Android phone on HSPA to tether Internet to my laptop and I’m getting 60-120KBps (which I got in Palawan since I’m probably not exceeding the CIR, but not in Manila which is definitely more dense), then it really could mean that my telco is delivering actual average speeds. Please, telcos, I think we should level up the way we communicate our Internet-related products as we move on to 4G technology! 🙂

By Jayvee Fernandez

Jayvee Fernandez is a tech enthusiast, EAN certified SCUBA Diver and underwater photographer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His photos and videos have appeared in various international and local publications including Random House Germany, Discovery Channel Canada, and CNN.

7 replies on “Mbps is not Megabytes per second but “megabits” per second”

i was working on a telco account and for a while even our team was confused, because client never told us that it was megabits, not bytes. it was only after we ourselves calculated things and client kept telling us our calculations were wrong. we realised that that was the reason why the abbreviation was Mbps and not MBps — tiny difference that nobody really points out.

2 megabits = 2,048 kilobits = 256 kilobytes

I think that the main reason we use megabits to describe bandwidth is because they allow for nice whole numbers. “256KBps” doesnt exactly roll off the tongue quite as easily as “2mbps” so from a marketing perspective, the latter just makes more sense.

Although I agree that there’s a definite need for consumer education here so people understand what they’re signing up for, I personally don’t think there’s any harm in using megabits as the unit of measurement. The entire industry does that anyway; it’s not as if PLDT uses bytes but the competition uses bits. Both of them state their burst bandwidth in bits, so it’s easy to do comparisons.

Also, it’s been like this since the dialup days, with 28.8kbps and 56.6kbps modems, so keeping with that standard allows for better continuity overall.

just divide your Mbps by 8 to get the speed in bytes, these things also occur in the HDD market because manufacturers and ISPs can (and will) use the higher value to attract customers

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