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What is Bits Per Second (Kbps): Everything You Need To Know

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Bits per second is a common measure of data communications speed for computer modems and transmission carriers.  It is abbreviated as kbps or bps rather than b/s. Network equipment manufacturers rate the maximum network bandwidth level that their products support in Kbps, Mbps, and Gbps units.

Because network speeds can be expressed in thousands (kilo-), millions (mega-), or billions (giga-) of units at once, these are sometimes referred to as internet speed units.

Bits Per Second Definitions

Because kilo – denotes a value of one thousand, it is used to denote the slowest speed in this group:

  • A kilobit per second is equivalent to 1,000 bits per second. This is sometimes written as kbps, Kb/sec, or Kb/s, but they all mean the same thing.
  • One megabit per second is equal to 1000 Kbps or one million bits per second. It is also known as Mbps, Mb/sec, and Mb/s.
  • A gigabit per second is equal to 1000 Mbps, one million Kbps, or one billion bits per second. Gbps, Gb/sec, and Gb/s are all abbreviations for gigabit per second.

Avoiding Misconceptions About Bits and Bytes

Data rates for disc drives and some other non-network computer equipment are sometimes shown in bytes per second (Bps with an uppercase B) rather than bits per second (bps with a lowercase ‘b’) for historical reasons.

  • A KBps is a kilobyte per second.
  • One megabyte per second is equal to one MBps.
  • One gigabyte per second is equal to one gigabyte per second.

Because one byte equals eight bits, converting these ratings to the lowercase ‘b’ form is as simple as multiplying by 8:

  • one KBps equals 8 Kbps
  • one MBps equals 8 Mbps
  • one GBps equals 8 Gbps

Networking professionals always refer to network connection speeds in terms of bps (lowercase ‘b’) ratings to avoid confusion between bits and bytes.

Common Network Equipment Speed Ratings

Network equipment with Kbps speed ratings is typically older and underperforming by modern standards. Old dial-up modems, for example, could support data rates of up to 56 kilo bits per second.

  • The majority of network equipment has Mbps speed ratings.
  • Home internet connections can range from 1 Mbps to 100 Mbps, with 802.11g Wi-Fi connections reaching 54 Mbps.
  • Older Ethernet connections have a rate of 100 Mbps, while 802.11n Wi-Fi connections have rates of 150 Mbps, 300 Mbps, and higher.

Gbps speed rating on high-end gear:

  • 1 Gbps is supported by Gigabit Ethernet.
  • Several Gbps are supported by backbone network links that feed internet providers and cell towers.

What Comes After Gbps?

1 terabit per second is equal to 1000 Gbps (Tbps). There are few Tbps networking technologies available today.

Tbps connections have been developed by the Internet2 project to support its experimental network, and some industry companies have also built testbeds and successfully demonstrated Tbps links.

How to Convert Data Rates

When you know that there are 8 bits in every byte and that kilo, Mega, and Giga mean thousand, million, and billion, converting between these units is a breeze. You can perform the calculations manually or use one of several online calculators.

With those rules, you can, for example, convert Bits per second (kbps) to Mbps. Because each megabit contains 1,000 kilobits, 15,000 Kbps equals 15 Mbps.

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