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Kilobit – Megabit – Gigabit

In computer networks, a kilobit normally represents 1000 bits of data. one megabit represents 1000 kilobits and gigabit It represents 1000 megabits (equal to one million kilobits).

Network data rates: bits per second

Kilobits, megabits, and gigabits traveling over a computer network are usually measured per second:

  • 1 kilobit per second equals 1 Kbps or kbps (these are equivalent)
  • 1 megabit per second equals 1 Mbps
  • 1 gigabit per second equals 1 Gbps

Slow network connections are measured in kilobits, faster connections in megabits, and very fast connections in gigabits.

Examples of Kilobits, Megabits. and Gigabits

The table below summarizes the common usage of these terms in computer networks. Speed ​​ratings represent the rated maximum of the technology.

standard dial-up modems56 Kbps
Typical encoding rates of MP3 music files128Kbps, 160Kbps, 256Kbps, 320Mbps
Maximum encoding speed of Dolby Digital (audio)640 Kbps
Line T11544 Kbps
ethernet10Mbps
Wireless 802.11b11Mbps
WiFi 802.11a and 802.11g54Mbps
fast internet100Mbps
typical 802.11n Wi-FI data rates150Mbps, 300Mbps, 450Mbps, 600Mbps
typical 802.11ac Wi-Fi data rates433 Mbps, 867 Mbps, 1300 Mbps, 2600 Mbps
Gigabit Ethernet1Gbps
10 Gigabit Ethernet10Gbps

Internet service speed ratings depend on the type of Internet access technology you use and the subscription plan you choose. Years ago, traditional broadband connections were rated at 384 Kbps and 512 Kbps. Speeds above 5 Mbps are now common, with 10 Mbps and above normal in some cities and countries.

Problem with bitrates

The Mbps and Gbps values ​​of network equipment (including internet connections) provide significant revenue in product sales and marketing. However, these data rates are only indirectly dependent on the speed of the network and the performance levels that users on a network actually experience.

For example, consumer and home networks typically generate only small amounts of network traffic, but in rapid bursts from uses such as web browsing and email. Even a relatively modest sustained data rate of 5 Mbps is sufficient for most Netflix streams. The network load gradually increases as more devices and users are added. Most of this traffic comes from the Internet rather than indoors, where wide area network latency and other limits on a home’s Internet connection often (but not always) determine the overall performance experience.

Confusion between bits and bytes

People less familiar with computer networks believe that one kilobit is equal to 1024 bits. This equivalence is not true in networks, but may be valid in other contexts. Specifications for network adapters, network routers, and other hardware always use 1000-bit kilobits as the basis for specified data rates. Confusion arises when computer memory and disk drive manufacturers often use kilobytes of 1024 bytes as the basis for their stated capacities.

Learn more by exploring our article on the difference between bits and bytes.

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Kilobit – Megabit – Gigabit

In computer networking, a kilobit normally represents 1000 bits of data. A megabit represents 1000 kilobits and a gigabit represents 1000 megabits (equal to one million kilobits).

Network Data Rates: Bits Per Second

Kilobits, megabits, and gigabits traveling over a computer network are typically measured per second:

1 kilobit per second equals 1 Kbps or kbps (these are equivalent)
1 megabit per second equals 1 Mbps
1 gigabit per second equals 1 Gbps

Slow network connections are measured in kilobits, faster links in megabits, and very fast connections in gigabits.

Examples of Kilobits, Megabits. and Gigabits

The table below summarizes common usage of these terms in computer networking. Speed ratings represent the rated maximum of the technology.

standard dial-up modems
56 Kbps
typical encoding rates of MP3 music files
128 Kbps, 160 Kbps, 256 Kbps, 320 Mbps
maximum encoding rate of Dolby Digital (audio)
640 Kbps
T1 line
1544 Kbps
Ethernet
10 Mbps
802.11b Wi-Fi
11 Mbps
802.11a and 802.11g Wi-Fi
54 Mbps
Fast Ethernet
100 Mbps
typical 802.11n Wi-FI data rates
150 Mbps, 300 Mbps, 450 Mbps, 600 Mbps
typical 802.11ac Wi-Fi data rates
433 Mbps, 867 Mbps, 1300 Mbps, 2600 Mbps
Gigabit Ethernet
1 Gbps
10 Gigabit Ethernet
10 Gbps

The speed ratings of internet services vary depending on the kind of internet access technology you’re using and also your choice of subscription plans. Many years ago, mainstream broadband connections were rated 384 Kbps and 512 Kbps. Now, speeds above 5 Mbps are common, with 10 Mbps and higher the norm in some cities and countries.

The Problem with Bit Rates

The Mbps and Gbps ratings of network equipment (including internet connections) get prominent billing in product sales and marketing. However, these data rates are only indirectly connected to network speed and the performance levels that users of a network actually experience.

For example, consumers and home networks normally generate only a small amount of network traffic, but in rapid bursts, from usages like Web browsing and email. Even a relatively modest sustained data rate like 5 Mbps is sufficient for most Netflix streaming. Network load only gradually increases as more devices and users are added. Much of that traffic is incoming from the internet rather than self-generated within the home, where long-distance networking delays and other limits of a household’s internet link often (not always) dictate the overall performance experience.

The Confusion Between Bits and Bytes

People less familiar with computer networking believe one kilobit equals 1024 bits. This equivalence is untrue in networking but may be valid in other contexts. Specifications for network adapters, network routers, and other equipment always use 1000-bit kilobits as the basis of their quoted data rates. The confusion arises as computer memory and disk drive manufacturers often use 1024-byte kilobytes as the basis of their quoted capacities.

Get more background by exploring our article about the difference between bits and bytes.

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