Does Mbps Affect Internet Speed?

wifi router in a furnished home office

With so many people working from home, plus using the internet to connect with loved ones and stay entertained, more people are getting concerned with whether the speeds they get are fast enough.

You may also hear internet service providers (ISPs) promising they have the “fastest nationwide network” or making similarly impressive claims.

Providers measure speeds in megabits per second (Mbps). Let’s look at whether Mbps rates affect your internet speed and what you can do to improve your overall internet experience.

What Is the Difference Between Mbps and MBps?

Internet providers mention two main internet measurements when discussing products. You’ll see data transfer speeds shown as Mbps. However, there’s another measurement called megabytes per second (MBps). It relates to file sizes and the overall data transferred. So, if your mobile data plan has a data cap, it’ll include an MBps measurement.

Some people initially confuse these two measurements, especially when calculating how long it will take to download files on their current connections. One megabyte contains eight megabits. That crucial difference gives people the impression that internet speeds seem faster due to the higher Mbps numbers. For example, 50 Mbps is the same as 6.25 MBps. But the first measurement makes it sound like a faster service.

Does Mbps Affect Internet Speed?

When an internet company advertises Mbps, it’s an example of the maximum possible internet speeds. The higher the Mbps rate, the faster data can reach your device. As the Mbps measurement decreases, so will your internet speed.

Details about an available internet service may also mention bandwidth when describing speeds. The bandwidth is how much traffic your internet connection can handle simultaneously. Relatedly, the internet speed indicates how fast data can travel during optimal bandwidth conditions.

Testing your internet speed is an easy way to verify whether it matches what your ISP advertises. Choose one of the many free browser tools and apps, then see what results you get. The process is usually as simple as going to the testing page, then clicking a button that says “Start test” or something similar. You’ll see the download and upload speeds measured in Mbps.

If the download speed shows a higher number than the upload rate, don’t immediately get alarmed. Many ISPs offer asymmetrical internet speeds. They’ll give you faster download speeds than uploads. Since download speeds reflect how fast you can receive data, many people find that such plans fit how they use the internet.  Many activities are more dependent on receiving data than sending it through uploads.

However, you can also get a symmetrical internet plan. In that case, the Mbps rate would be approximately the same for both downloads and uploads.

How Many Mbps Do I Need?

After learning that Mbps affects internet speed, many people wonder what would be a “good” or “fast” internet speed for them. The first thing to keep in mind is that those answers largely depend on your intended usage and the number of people in your household sharing the connection.

For example, a 50-100 Mbps connection could suit a three-person or four-person household. However, that’s a range based on average internet usage. If someone loves streaming high-definition video or playing video games competitively, they’ll get better overall results with a higher Mbps rate.

If you’re shopping around for a new ISP now, consider researching the minimum speeds required to use certain services. For example, Zoom, Netflix, and others provide internet speed specifications for people to use their services without problems.

Alternatively, if switching to another provider or plan is not an option right now, consider scheduling blocks of time for people in your home to use the internet without other occupants also going online. That’s not a feasible solution to implement all the time, but it could work well to get you through things such as video calls with your clients or colleagues.

What If You Don’t Get the Expected Speeds?

Maybe you’ve run an internet speed test and found that the Mbps rate is significantly lower than what the ISP advertised. Take a look at the company’s contract before getting too upset. Most of these documents state that your speeds represent the best efforts of the company.

Keep in mind, too, that your internet speeds can fluctuate as the overall number of people using the network changes. Recall how you’ll get a lower Mbps rate as the number of internet users in your household increases. The same is true for your ISP’s network. You might notice slower speeds in the evening, which would make sense if people get off work and start using streaming media more at night.

If your internet router is more than about three years old, it could negatively impact your speeds, too. The newest options use the latest Wi-Fi technology to give better performance.

What If Your Internet Suddenly Got Slower?

You might notice that the speed you usually get is significantly slower than it once was. 

One reason may be that your device has a virus. Some malware can substantially slow down your computer or phone, which makes internet access seem slower. If you conduct speed tests on two different machines and get a much lower Mbps rate on one of them, run an antivirus scan to see if it detects anything.

Make sure you have a password-protected Wi-Fi network, too. Otherwise, your neighbors could log on. If it does have a password, consider changing it to something hard to guess.

The Mbps Rate Matters

Mbps is the main measurement of internet speed. However, as you now know, numerous other factors can impact your overall experience. Use the information here to make more confident decisions about improving performance and choosing the best plans.