Gbps vs Mbps Comparison: How It Impacts Your Broadband Speed

March 26th, 2024
Gbps vs Mbps Comparison: How It Impacts Your Broadband Speed

When shopping for broadband plans or comparing internet speeds, you've likely come across the terms "Gbps" and "Mbps." While both are used to measure internet speed, they represent different magnitudes of data transfer rates. Understanding the difference between Gbps and Mbps is crucial for making informed decisions about your broadband needs and ensuring you have the right plan for your household or business.

In this article, we'll explore the meaning of Gbps and Mbps, how they differ, and how they impact your internet experience. We'll also discuss factors to consider when choosing a broadband plan based on speed and provide a comparison of common internet activities and their speed requirements.

What is Mbps?

Mbps stands for "megabits per second" and is the most common unit used to measure internet speed. It represents the number of bits (binary digits) that can be transferred per second, with one megabit equal to 1,000,000 bits. Mbps is used to measure both download and upload speeds, which are crucial factors in determining the overall performance of your internet connection.

Download speed refers to the rate at which data is transferred from the Internet to your device, while upload speed refers to the rate at which data is transferred from your device to the Internet. Download speed is typically more important for most users, as it affects activities like browsing the web, streaming video, and downloading files. Upload speed, on the other hand, is crucial for tasks like video conferencing, online gaming, and sharing large files.

James Ford Broadband Deals Reviewed by James Ford, TV and Broadband Expert

Fibre 1 Only

  • New customers only
  • Free access to BT Wi-Fi hotspots
50Mb average* speed
Unlimited Downloads
£0.00 Setup costs
24 Month contract
Pay as you goCalls
£29.99per month

Fibre 1

  • New customers only
  • Price locked until April 2025
  • Up to £3/month saving for existing mobile contract customers
35Mb average* speed
Unlimited Downloads
£0.00 Setup costs
24 Month contract
Pay as you goCalls
£26.00per month

Superfast Broadband

  • New customers only
61Mb average* speed
Unlimited Downloads
£0.00 Setup costs
18 Month contract
Pay as you goCalls
£27.00per month

What is Gbps?

Gbps stands for "gigabits per second" and is a larger unit of measurement for internet speed. One gigabit is equal to 1,000 megabits, meaning that 1 Gbps is equivalent to 1,000 Mbps. Gbps is used to measure ultra-fast internet speeds that are becoming increasingly available with the expansion of fibre-optic networks and advanced broadband technologies.

To put this in perspective, a 1 Gbps connection can transfer 1 gigabit (or 1,000 megabits) of data per second, which is roughly 100 times faster than a typical 10 Mbps connection. With a 1 Gbps connection, you could download a full HD movie in just a few seconds, compared to several minutes with a 10 Mbps connection.

What is Gbps

The Impact of Mbps and Gbps on Your Internet Experience

The difference between Mbps and Gbps can have a significant impact on your internet experience, particularly when it comes to high-bandwidth activities like streaming, gaming, and downloading large files. The table below provides a comparison of common internet activities and their recommended speed requirements:

Activity Recommended Speed (Mbps)
Email and web browsing 1-5 Mbps
Social media 3-10 Mbps
HD video streaming 5-10 Mbps
4K video streaming 25+ Mbps
Online gaming 3-6 Mbps
Video conferencing 3-10 Mbps
Large file downloads 10+ Mbps
Multiple devices/users 25+ Mbps

As you can see, the speed requirements for different activities vary considerably. While basic tasks like email and web browsing can be accomplished with speeds as low as 1-5 Mbps, more demanding activities like 4K video streaming and large file downloads require significantly higher speeds.

When choosing a broadband plan, it's essential to consider not only your individual needs but also the number of devices and users in your household. A family of four with multiple devices streaming, gaming, and browsing simultaneously will require a much higher speed than a single user primarily using the internet for email and social media.

The Availability of Mbps and Gbps Speeds

The availability of Mbps and Gbps speeds varies depending on your location, service provider, and the type of broadband technology used. In the UK, the most common types of broadband are:

  1. ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line): ADSL uses existing telephone lines to deliver internet speeds typically ranging from 10-24 Mbps.
  2. Cable: Cable broadband uses coaxial cables to deliver internet speeds typically ranging from 30-500 Mbps, with some providers offering speeds up to 1 Gbps.
  3. Fibre-optic: Fibre-optic broadband uses fibre-optic cables to deliver ultra-fast internet speeds, with many providers offering plans ranging from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps or higher.

According to Ofcom's 2021 Connected Nations report, 96% of UK homes and businesses have access to broadband speeds of at least 30 Mbps (superfast broadband), while 60% have access to speeds of at least 300 Mbps (ultrafast broadband). Gigabit-capable broadband (with speeds of at least 1 Gbps) is now available to 47% of UK homes and businesses, with the government aiming to extend this coverage to 85% by 2025.

Compare Now

Factors Affecting Your Actual Internet Speed

It's important to note that the advertised speed of your broadband plan may not always match the actual speed you experience. Several factors can impact your internet speed, including:

  1. Network congestion: During peak usage hours, when many people are online simultaneously, your internet speed may slow down due to network congestion.
  2. Distance from the exchange: For ADSL and some fibre-optic connections, the farther you are from the provider's exchange, the slower your internet speed may be.
  3. Hardware limitations: Older modems, routers, or devices may not be capable of supporting the maximum speed of your broadband plan.
  4. Wi-Fi interference: If you're using Wi-Fi, obstacles like walls, floors, and electrical appliances can interfere with the signal and reduce your internet speed.
  5. Wired vs. wireless connections: Wired Ethernet connections generally provide faster and more stable speeds compared to Wi-Fi.

To ensure you're getting the best possible speed from your broadband plan, it's recommended to use a wired Ethernet connection when possible, keep your modem and router updated, and position your Wi-Fi router in a central location away from interference sources.

Real-World Speed Comparisons

To put Mbps and Gbps speeds into perspective, let's look at some real-world examples of how long it would take to download a 5 GB file (roughly the size of a full HD movie) with different connection speeds:

Connection Speed Download Time
10 Mbps 1 hour 8 min
50 Mbps 13 min 39 sec
100 Mbps 6 min 49 sec
500 Mbps 1 min 22 sec
1 Gbps 40 sec

As you can see, the difference between Mbps and Gbps speeds can be substantial. While a 10 Mbps connection would take over an hour to download a 5 GB file, a 1 Gbps connection could accomplish the same task in just 40 seconds.

Real-World Speed Comparisons

Choosing the Right Broadband Plan

When selecting a broadband plan, consider the following factors:

  1. Your household's speed requirements: Determine the number of users and devices in your household and the types of online activities they engage in. Use the recommended speed table provided earlier as a guideline.
  2. The availability of broadband technologies in your area: Check which types of broadband (ADSL, cable, fibre-optic) are available at your address and compare the speeds and prices offered by different providers.
  3. Your budget: Gigabit-speed plans are typically more expensive than slower plans. Decide how much you're willing to spend on your broadband service and look for the best value within your budget.
  4. Contract length and terms: Pay attention to the contract length, early termination fees, and any additional costs (e.g., installation, equipment rental) when comparing broadband plans.
  5. Upload speed: If you frequently engage in activities that require high upload speeds, such as video conferencing or cloud storage, consider plans with higher upload speeds or symmetrical speeds (equal download and upload).

Testing Your Internet Speed

To determine your current internet speed and ensure you're getting the speed you're paying for, you can use online speed testing tools like Speedtest.net or Fast.com. These tools measure your download and upload speeds and provide information on your ping (latency) and jitter (variability in latency).

When running a speed test, make sure to:

  1. Close any unnecessary programs and apps that may be using your internet connection.
  2. Connect your device directly to your modem or router with an Ethernet cable, if possible.
  3. Perform multiple tests at different times of the day to account for variations in network congestion.

If you consistently experience speeds lower than what you're paying for, contact your internet service provider to troubleshoot the issue. They may need to investigate your connection, equipment, or network infrastructure to identify and resolve any problems.

Compare Now

The Future of Internet Speeds

As internet technologies continue to evolve, we can expect to see even faster speeds and more widespread availability of Gbps connections. Some of the developments that may shape the future of internet speeds include:

  1. 5G fixed wireless: The rollout of 5G networks is expected to provide gigabit-speed fixed wireless broadband to homes and businesses, particularly in areas where fibre-optic deployment is challenging.
  2. 10G fibre: Researchers and industry leaders are already working on the next generation of fibre-optic technology, aiming to deliver speeds of 10 Gbps or higher.
  3. Satellite internet: Companies like SpaceX (Starlink) and Amazon (Project Kuiper) are developing satellite internet constellations that promise to deliver high-speed, low-latency internet to remote and underserved areas.
  4. Wi-Fi 6 and 6E: The latest Wi-Fi standards offer faster speeds, lower latency, and better performance in congested areas, improving the overall internet experience for wireless users.

As these technologies advance and become more widely available, the distinction between Mbps and Gbps speeds will become increasingly important for consumers and businesses alike.

Bits vs Bytes Explained

Bits (b)

A bit (binary digit) is the smallest unit of data in computing. It represents a single value that can be either 0 or 1. Bits are used to encode and transmit data across networks, such as the internet. Internet speeds, like Mbps and Gbps, are measured in bits per second.

Example:

  • A 100 Mbps internet connection transfers 100 megabits (100,000,000 bits) per second.

Bytes (B)

A byte is a unit of digital information consisting of 8 bits. Bytes are used to measure file sizes and storage capacity. One byte can represent a single character, such as a letter, number, or symbol.

Example:

  • A 5 MB (megabyte) image file consists of 5,000,000 bytes (40,000,000 bits).

Conversion between Bits and Bytes

To convert between bits and bytes, use the following formulas:

  • Bits to Bytes: divide the number of bits by 8
  • Bytes to Bits: multiply the number of bytes by 8

Examples:

  • 100 Mbps (megabits per second) = 12.5 MB/s (megabytes per second)
  • 5 MB (megabytes) = 40 Mb (megabits)

Prefixes: Kilo, Mega, Giga, Tera

When discussing bits and bytes, you'll often encounter prefixes like kilo (K), mega (M), giga (G), and tera (T). These prefixes indicate the scale of the unit.

  • Kilo: 1,000 (10^3)
  • Mega: 1,000,000 (10^6)
  • Giga: 1,000,000,000 (10^9)
  • Tera: 1,000,000,000,000 (10^12)

Examples:

  • 1 Gbps (gigabit per second) = 1,000 Mbps (megabits per second)
  • 1 TB (terabyte) = 1,000 GB (gigabytes)

Understanding the difference between bits and bytes is important when comparing internet speeds, file sizes, and storage capacities. Remember that internet speeds are usually measured in bits per second (bps), while file sizes and storage are typically measured in bytes (B).

Bits vs Bytes Explained

The Different Generations of Wi-Fi Technology: Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, and The Upcoming Wi-Fi 7

Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)

Wi-Fi 5, also known as 802.11ac, was introduced in 2014. It operates on the 5 GHz frequency band and offers faster speeds and better performance compared to its predecessor, Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n).

Key features:

  • Theoretical maximum speed: 3.5 Gbps
  • Dual-band operation (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz)
  • MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output) technology
  • Beamforming for improved signal targeting

Wi-Fi 5 is widely adopted and provides sufficient speed and performance for most home and office networks.

Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)

Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, was introduced in 2019. It builds upon the features of Wi-Fi 5, offering even faster speeds, lower latency, and improved performance in congested environments.

Key features:

  • Theoretical maximum speed: 9.6 Gbps
  • Dual-band operation (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz)
  • OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) for improved efficiency
  • Enhanced MU-MIMO technology
  • Target Wake Time (TWT) for improved battery life on mobile devices
  • Improved security with WPA3 protocol

Wi-Fi 6 is ideal for households with many connected devices, dense urban areas, and environments that require high-speed, low-latency connections, such as gaming or virtual reality applications.

Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be)

Wi-Fi 7, also known as 802.11be, is the next generation of Wi-Fi technology, expected to be released in 2024. It aims to provide even faster speeds, lower latency, and improved performance in dense environments.

Key features (expected):

  • Theoretical maximum speed: 30+ Gbps
  • Tri-band operation (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz)
  • Wider channels (up to 320 MHz) for increased bandwidth
  • Enhanced OFDMA and MU-MIMO technologies
  • Improved beamforming and signal targeting
  • Lower latency for real-time applications

Wi-Fi 7 will be designed to support the growing demands of future technologies, such as 8K streaming, virtual and augmented reality, and high-density IoT deployments.

WiFi Comparison Table

Feature Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be)
Maximum Speed 3.5 Gbps 9.6 Gbps 30+ Gbps
Frequency Bands 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, 6 GHz
OFDMA No Yes Enhanced
MU-MIMO Yes Enhanced Enhanced
Beamforming Yes Enhanced Enhanced
Security WPA2 WPA3 WPA3 or higher

As Wi-Fi technology continues to evolve, each new generation brings faster speeds, lower latency, and improved performance. When choosing a Wi-Fi router or device, consider your current and future needs, as well as the compatibility with your existing devices. While Wi-Fi 6 is the current state-of-the-art, Wi-Fi 7 is on the horizon, promising even greater capabilities for the ever-growing demands of our connected world.

Compare Now

Compare the Different Requirements and Characteristics of Streaming Videos, Video Chat, and Online Gaming

Streaming Videos

Streaming videos involves watching pre-recorded video content over the internet. This includes services like Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video.

Key requirements:

  • High download speed for smooth, uninterrupted playback
  • Consistent connection to prevent buffering
  • Adequate data allowance to avoid exceeding caps

Recommended internet speeds:

  • SD (480p) video: 3 Mbps
  • HD (720p) video: 5 Mbps
  • Full HD (1080p) video: 10 Mbps
  • 4K (2160p) video: 25 Mbps

Streaming videos primarily relies on download speed and consistency, as the content is not real-time and can be buffered.

Video Chat

Video chat involves real-time communication with one or more people using video and audio. Examples include Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime.

Key requirements:

  • Sufficient upload and download speeds for smooth video calls and audio calls
  • Low latency to improve delay and maintain conversational flow
  • Stable connection to avoid dropouts or freezing

Recommended internet speeds:

  • 1:1 video calling (SD): 1 Mbps upload and download
  • 1:1 video calling (HD): 1.5 Mbps upload and download
  • Group video calling (SD): 2 Mbps upload and download
  • Group video calling (HD): 3 Mbps upload and download

Video chat requires a balance of upload and download speeds, as well as low latency, to ensure a smooth, real-time experience.

Online Gaming

Online gaming involves playing video games with other players over the internet. This includes genres like first-person shooters, MMORPGs, and battle royale games.

Key requirements:

  • Low latency (ping) for responsive gameplay
  • Consistent connection to avoid disconnects or lag
  • Sufficient download speed for game updates and content delivery

Recommended internet speeds:

  • Minimum: 3 Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload
  • Recommended: 6 Mbps download, 2 Mbps upload
  • For fast-paced, competitive games: 25+ Mbps download, 5+ Mbps upload

Online games uses low latency and consistency over raw speed, as fast reactions and smooth gameplay are essential.

Comparison Table: Streaming Videos vs Video Chat vs Online Gaming

Factor Streaming Videos Video Chat Online Gaming
Download Speed High Moderate Moderate
Upload Speed Low Moderate Moderate
Latency (Ping) Moderate Low Low
Consistency High High High
Data Usage High Moderate Low to Moderate

When comparing these three activities, it's essential to consider the specific requirements for each. Streaming videos demand high download speeds and consistency, while video chat requires a balance of upload and download speeds, as well as low latency. Online gaming prioritises low latency and consistency for responsive gameplay.

To ensure the best experience for all three activities, aim for an internet plan with high download speeds (25+ Mbps), sufficient upload speeds (5+ Mbps), and low latency. Keep in mind that these requirements may increase if multiple users or devices engage in these activities simultaneously on the same network.

Compare the Different Requirements and Characteristics of Streaming Videos Video Chat and Online Gaming

Do you really need gig home internet?

Whether you need gigabit internet (1 Gbps or 1000 Mbps) at home depends on your specific needs, the number of users and devices on your network, and the types of online activities you engage in. For many households, gigabit internet might be overkill, but for others, it could be a necessity.

When Gigabit Internet Might Be Overkill

  1. Small households (1-2 people) with basic internet needs:
    • Web browsing, email, social media
    • Streaming HD video on 1-2 devices
    • Light online gaming
  2. Users who primarily use the internet on mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) with limited Wi-Fi capabilities
  3. Households with a limited number of connected devices (< 5)

In these cases, a lower-tier internet plan (100-300 Mbps) would likely suffice, as gigabit speeds may not provide a noticeable difference in performance for basic tasks.

When Gigabit Internet Could Be Beneficial

  1. Large households (5+ people) with multiple heavy internet users:
    • Simultaneous 4K video streaming on multiple devices
    • Frequent large file downloads or uploads
    • Intensive online gaming
  2. Home offices with bandwidth-intensive tasks:
    • High-quality video conferencing
    • Large file transfers
    • Cloud-based applications and storage
  3. Smart homes with numerous connected devices (10+):
    • Home automation systems
    • Security cameras
    • IoT devices
  4. Households with advanced networking needs:
    • Home media servers
    • Remote backup solutions
    • High-speed home networks (NAS, LAN)

In these situations, gigabit internet can provide the necessary bandwidth and speed to support multiple users and devices without experiencing slowdowns or bottlenecks.

Gig Broadband Considerations

  • Future-proofing: As technology advances and more devices become internet-enabled, having gigabit internet can ensure your home network is ready for future demands.
  • Cost: Gigabit internet plans are typically more expensive than lower-tier plans. Consider your budget and whether the extra cost is justified based on your needs.
  • Availability: Gigabit internet may not be available in all areas, particularly in rural or less populated regions.
  • Equipment: To fully make use of gigabit speeds, you may need to upgrade your modem, router, and Ethernet cables to support the higher bandwidth.

Ultimately, the decision to opt for gigabit internet depends on your specific requirements, budget, and availability. For most households with basic to moderate internet needs, a lower-tier plan (100-300 Mbps) will likely be sufficient. However, if you have a large household with multiple heavy internet users or engage in bandwidth-intensive activities, gigabit internet can provide a seamless, high-speed experience.

Compare Now

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good internet speed for streaming?

For streaming HD video, a minimum speed of 5 Mbps is recommended. However, for 4K streaming or households with multiple simultaneous streams, speeds of 25 Mbps or higher are ideal.

Is 100 Mbps fast enough for gaming?

Yes, 100 Mbps is more than sufficient for online gaming. Most gaming platforms recommend speeds between 3-6 Mbps for optimal performance. However, higher speeds can be beneficial for downloading large game files or updates.

What is the difference between Mbps and MBps?

Mbps (megabits per second) is a measure of internet speed, while MBps (megabytes per second) is a measure of file size or storage. One byte is equal to 8 bits, so to convert Mbps to MBps, divide by 8. For example, a 100 Mbps connection is equivalent to 12.5 MBps.

How much speed do I need for working from home?

For most remote work tasks, such as email, web browsing, and document sharing, speeds of 10-25 Mbps should be sufficient. However, for video conferencing or uploading large files, speeds of 25 Mbps or higher are recommended.

Can I upgrade my internet speed without changing internet providers(ISP)?

In many cases, yes. Contact your current internet service provider to inquire about available speed upgrades and their associated costs. Keep in mind that some speed tiers may require equipment upgrades or may not be available in your area.

Understanding the difference between Gbps and Mbps is crucial for making informed decisions about your broadband needs. By assessing your household's speed requirements, comparing available plans, and regularly testing your internet speed, you can ensure that you have the right broadband service to support your online activities. As internet technologies continue to advance, staying informed about the latest developments in speed and connectivity will help you stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape.

Grab the cheapest Broadband & Phone Deals

Make savings up to 44% & keep the operational cost lower!!!

Compare Now
4000+ reviews