Explain it to me like I am Michael Scott

mbps explained

Water and Hose Analogy

Think about water and a hose. It is summer and you are filling up a swimming pool with water. A larger/wider hose that lets out more water per second is without-a-doubt going to fill the pool much faster than a smaller hose, right? Replace that water with data ( i.e. a song, a movie, a file..) and now you understand bandwidth and it getting to you faster.

A greater bandwidth will allow data from the internet (/water source in our analogy)  to download faster to your device (/pool). This means that those websites will open faster, Hulu movies will stream better (without all that buffering), and your files will download faster to you.

Bandwidth works with uploads as well. A higher Mbps will ensure faster uploads. Keep in mind that not all Internet service is the same so it is important to consult with a provider on differences before you commit.

Ok but again, what is Mbps?

Internet service providers usually sell and talk of speeds of up to 7Mbps and another will promise 10Mbps (or 50Mbps). What does that mean? Well, data transfer across the internet occurs in electrical or light pulses. The smallest unit of data is called a bit with the rate of data transfer being measured in seconds. This means the slowest speed of data transfer possible is one bit per second (1 bps).

If you really want to get technical here (extra credit) Bits are chunked in groups of a thousand. 1,000 bits are called a kilobit (Kb). The rate of transfer of 1,000 bits per second is 1 kilobit per second (1Kbps). 1,000 kilobits are called 1 megabit (Mb). Essentially, 1 megabit consists of 1,000,000 bits. So, 1Mbps is the rate of transfer of one million bits per second. If we take this one step higher, a thousand Megabits are called a Gigabit (Gb). This equals 1 billion bits.

So to wrap this up, the Mbps meaning is “the rate of transfer of 1 million bits per second.” If your internet service provider promises download speeds of 7Mbps, they are promising that they’ll be able to transfer 7 million bits per second to your device.

Megabits vs Megabytes

1 byte = 8 bits

1 Kilobyte (KB) = 8 Kilobits (Kb)

1 Megabyte (MB) = 8 Megabits

1 Gigabyte (GB) = 8 Gigabits (Gb)

(Pay attention to the abbreviation. Bits are given a small “b” and bytes are given a capital “B”.)

Speaking in upload and download speeds, 1Mbps will transfer 8MB of data in one second. Downloading a file of 16MB on a 1 Mbps connection would take you approximately 2 seconds to download it.

Mbps and Your Internet Data Plan

When choosing the right internet bandwidth package for your business or home, consider

  • the nature of internet usage, and
  • the number of users

Here are the recommended bandwidth sizes for different usage scenarios by a single user:

  • Social Media and surfing the web (1– 3 Mbps)
  • Video conferencing (2 – 4 Mbps)
  • Online video streaming e.g. via Netflix (3 – 5 Mbps)
  • Streaming videos in HD (5 – 7 Mbps)

Southern Cal Telecom can help you determine exactly what you need for your residential or commercial needs. Contact us today!


Meeting All of Your Telecommunication Needs


At Southern Cal Telecom Inc., our professional staff can install, design, and maintain just the ideal system for your company. At our data and storage center, your data will always be safeguarded with the highest levels of security. Count on us for the right carrier service (VoIP and hosted PBX phone system), security and surveillance systems, and more!