The driving force behind bandwidth you never really knew about.
What does internet have in common with cars? Power.
More specifically, the measurement of power, as well as speed—important features in an age defined by consumers seeking bigger, better, and faster. When dealing with internet the term “Mbps” frequently crops up in association with connection speed, prefaced by a number (i.e. 75/75 Mbps). But like most tech-heavy terms, a complicated concept is reduced to a cryptic acronym. The actual meaning is rarely defined, resulting in more confused Google searches than should be necessary.
For simplicity, think of it this way: Mbps is to internet what horsepower is to cars.
Meaning: Mbps is the unit of measurement used to convey how fast your internet is, just as horsepower is the unit of measurement used to convey how fast a car is. When you hear “the all-new Mustang has a 300 horsepower engine,” you’re prompted to imagine the full might and combined energy of 300 horses pulling your car at top speed to adequately illustrate the power behind its engine.
So does it work, then, to think of the combined speed and power of 300 tiny virtual stallions racing through your computer’s wiring, fueling your connection to the internet and accounting for its overall speed?
Maybe not. But, the concept remains more or less the same.
Cool story. But… what is it?
To put it simply, Mbps is the speed at which your internet operates, which then directly translates into the speed at which your business operates. It includes every upload speed and download speed between 1 and 999 Mbps, the most common internet speeds sought by users being 25, 50, 75, and 150 Mbps.
What is Mbps?
Internet speed is measured in “megabits per second”, or Mbps. A megabit is a million bits, or tiny pieces of data, that group together to transmit information over your internet connection. A higher Mbps speed allows for faster online functions, such as quicker download rates and clearer video calls, streaming, and online gaming.
Internet service providers pair Mbps with a number, sometimes even two. Those numbers indicate speed as it relates to upload and download times; for example, 75 Mbps download/45 Mbps upload. Generally, download speeds are faster than uploads. Fiber is the only high-speed internet connection that allows for equal upload and download speed.
Take a trip down the Web’s memory lane.
How far has the megabit come?
Mbps has dominated the most recent internet era, introducing users to speeds that rarely deal with buffering and setting the bar high for what people expect online speeds to be. But Mbps would not have taken us to where we are today if its not-so-distant predecessor, Kbps, hadn’t been around to jumpstart the fledgling tech industry first.
Short for “kilobits per second”, this was what powered the era of dial-up internet. Kbps fueled speeds that were adequate for the infantile internet of the 1970s-80s, and was not really required to support a large network or user base.
Kbps is now regarded as an antique sitting quietly on the shelf of years past, every once in a while catching someone’s attention and prompting them to reflection: “Look at how far we’ve come.” It’s a lot like the nostalgia that’s unearthed in collectors and enthusiasts by things like vintage vinyl or classic cars.
However, unlike the revered light vinyl and cars are often held in, no one of this day and age would choose to revert back to a 56K operating system. Waiting 15-20 hours to download a movie is hardly preferable to a movie or video that is instantly available via today’s internet.
But how far has internet really come in the past few decades? How has computer hardware and software developments and the competitive nature of the market shaped the way it functions today? Take a look at the timeline below to see some of the highlights of the ever-changing story of the internet:
ARPANET (the system before the internet) is developed.
Telenet is created.
Email is initiated.
The term internet is used for the first time.
Ethernet is created.
ARPANET’s main function was to link computers together to access and distribute information.
DNS establishes URLs ending in .net, .edu, .org, .com, .gov.
The first 56K modem is connected.
The first commercial provider of dial-up internet (world.std.com) emerges.
Sending an email with an attachment (approximately 60 MB) would take almost two and a half hours.
HTML is developed.
The World Wide Web is introduced.
The first audio and video files are shared over the internet.
Yahoo is launched.
Google is launched.
Napster popularizes peer-to-peer file sharing.
Downloading a 3.5 MB song takes roughly 10-12 minutes.
Worldwide panic is averted as the Y2K scare blows over.
Broadband internet launches.
MySpace, Skype, iTunes, WordPress, and Safari debut.
Facebook goes online.
YouTube and Reddit launch.
Twitter sends its first tweet. Wi-Fi is normalized.
Uploading a 1 GB video to Facebook takes about 17 seconds.
Pinterest and Instagram are created.
The Online Pirating Act is shot down.
Edward Snowden exposes the NSA monitoring program.
Downloading a 2-hour movie (approximately 1.5 GB) on Netflix takes 12 seconds.
2 gigabit ethernet and internet is in the beginning stages of possibility—stay tuned for the unfolding of a new internet age.
Streaming and online gaming with a constant, uninterrupted connection and no buffering.
It’s not stopping here. The tech industry is gunning for an even faster future, and it’s relatively safe to say that within a few short years, the megabit will be phased out by the gigabit, ushering in the dawn of the Gbps era, which will then be eventually edged out by the terabit era.
Already available and used by many, gig internet is the next exciting frontier of high-speed internet, a broad door that is opening an entirely new realm of possibilities for business, communication, entertainment, virtual reality, gaming, and so much more.
The internet is an industry that will never stop trying to outpace itself.
Investing in technology is the same as investing in your business.
People have always been driven by an obsession for the latest and greatest gadgets and gear. Technology lies at the heart of that drive, particularly internet tech—nearly everything nowadays is online in some way and demands bandwidth. Our collective society would have a hard time functioning without it. Its presence dominates the atmosphere of our work, school, and home lives, and has formed a lifeline that we depend on to keep up with the world around us.
What is something like Mbps to your business?
Frankly, it’s your network connection—to your customers, vendors, partners, suppliers, and technicians. It’s the fuel behind the well-oiled machine; what tracks your business’s finances and inventory and scheduling. It’s also how fast people find you. If it slows down, your business is likely to slow down, too.
The price you pay for internet and the speed you choose not only affects the work you do now, but also as far a year out. The tech pace is constantly changing, and businesses with it, so it would make sense to pay for a bit more than what you’re used to to accommodate that potential growth.
The need for speed can grow your business.
It’s interesting to think that four letters and a couple of numbers have such a crucial impact on an integral part of our everyday lives, but without Mbps, our internet wouldn’t have any fuel to run.
Let’s circle back to our car metaphor.
Cars get you where you need to go, and the higher the horsepower, the faster you can get somewhere. Mbps is the expressway for your business, a clear route to growth and productivity. The faster the speed, the faster you can operate and improve.
The power that’s paired with Mbps doesn’t have to be intimidating. When you know what your needs are and how to fulfill them, the power is yours to command. Technology will continue to progress and Mbps will evolve in tandem with the next inevitable phase of the internet, but keeping up will ensure your business ultimately stays ahead of the curve.