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Home Tech Mbps vs. Gbps: What internet speeds does your business really need?

Mbps vs. Gbps: What internet speeds does your business really need?

by Intizar Ali
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The internet has become an integral part of our lives. It seems like there is no aspect of life that it doesn’t touch. 

It’s changed the way we socialize, get information, consume media and do business; in short, it’s revolutionized everything about how we live.  And speeds get faster and faster every year, but does your business really need all that speed?

Discover the difference between Megabits per second (Mbps) and Gbps, as well as the minimal speed you’ll need to operate your business’ particular mix of internet-facing services.

The Need for Speed

When shopping for a business internet plan, speed is at the forefront of any buyer’s priority list. And it’s easy to see why — even the most reliable connection from a reputable provider could suffer if the speed provided isn’t compatible with the number of users and devices in the business.  And some of your users might not be human.  For example, if you are recording a rolling 24-hour coverage from video surveillance to a cloud-based storage location, you’re going to have a heavy outbound user on your network all the time.

But still, do you really need all that speed?

Because many providers market their “gig-speed” plans as the end of lag and buffering, they’re in high demand and typically come with higher prices. Learn more about the difference between Mbps and Gbps before you spend the most expensive plan with the quickest gigabit internet speeds.

Bits per second – what does that mean?

Your internet connection’s data rate is measured in bits per second (bps). It’s simpler for ISPs and equipment makers to express speeds in thousands as data rates rise.

  • Kilobit – A kilobit is equal to 1,000 bits per second (Kbps)
  • Megabit – A megabit is equal to 1,000 Kbps or one million bits per second (Mbps)
  • Gigabit – A gigabit is equal to 1,000 Mbps, one million Kbps or one billion bits per second (Gbps)

But hang on, what’s a “bit”?

It’s the smallest piece of data that can be transmitted or processed and is a contraction of the words “binary digit”.  Roughly equivalent to one-eighth of a character in the alphabet.  A Megabit is 1,000 kilobits, which in turn is 1,000 bits, or 125,000 characters in English.

In general, you’ll have the option of purchasing internet plans with megabit or gigabit speeds, depending on your provider and plan, in nearly every serviceable area. You’re unlikely to discover any major providers that provide Kbps services and you wouldn’t want to take out one of those anyway as you would quickly consume it just by downloading modern email.  Much better to look for a fixed wireless provider in areas where you can’t get a fixed line service.

What can I do with megabit speeds?

It’s easiest to express what you consume in domestic terms.  Here’s what you can do with certain speed ranges:

Netflix 

  • 3 Mbps to stream in standard definition
  • 5 Mbps to stream in high definition
  • 25 Mbps to stream in HDR or 4K

Amazon Video:

  • 1 Mb/s to stream standard definition content
  • 3.5 Mb/s to stream HD content (720p/1080p)
  • 15 Mb/s for 4K Ultra HD videos

Hulu

  • 3 Mbps to view on-demand titles
  • 8 Mbps to view live TV

YouTube TV

  • 3 Mbps to stream in standard definition
  • 7 Mbps to stream on one device in HD
  • 13 Mbps to stream in HD on multiple devices

What can I do with gigabit speeds?

When shopping for internet service, gigabit speeds are the new standard. 1 Gbps, or 1000 Mbps (one million Kbps) can be achieved through wired connections like coaxial cable and CAT-5e/CAT-6 Ethernet cables but you’ll usually find it offered wirelessly through a dedicated microwave link.

Gigabit speeds provide more than enough bandwidth for a small business to run efficiently with many users on a single connection, but it does depend on the use case of course. If you’re working from home and live alone, a gigabit connection might be pushing it if you’re doing things like uploading videos to social media at the same time.

For workgroups and small offices, 1 Gbps connections allow for multiple users to consume multiple rich media files while working on documents at the same time. This makes it an excellent choice for any business that needs to transfer high-quality images or videos between offices.

What should I look out for?

Your ISP will have a variety of plans to suit your needs. If you want premium, 1 Gbps speeds then expect to pay up for it based on availability and demand. It’s not often that this sort of connection is necessary, but when you need the speed, you really need it!

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