Megabits and megabytes explained

Drew answers John’s question about the difference between megabits and megabytes.

Megabits and megabytes explained

Q. I hear people in the media talking about 100 megabit per second download speeds. Does this mean I can download 100 megabytes per second?
Thanks, John

A. Hi John! The YOURLifeChoices office was also perplexed by this one for a short while. It turns out that megabits and megabytes are two entirely different things, despite their similar names. A speed of 100 megabits, whilst sounding incredibly impressive, will net you a maximum download speed of 12.5 megabytes a second.


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    15th Apr 2014
    A byte contains 8 bits, a bit is either a 1 or a 0. With control information that also needs to be sent, and a few other things a practical maximum is 1/10 of the Mb/s.
    Bytes are represented with a capital B, and bits are represented with a Lower case b
    MBps = Mega Bytes per second
    Mbps = Mega bits per second
    15th Apr 2014
    I always thought it was as simple as bytes being capacity and bits being speed. Is that not the case?
    15th Apr 2014
    At the risk of being considered a pedant, may I point out that in communications (Radio/TV etc) as well as in computer technology, it is usual to use the solidus '/' to denote frequencies and rates. Thus MB/s for megabytes per second and Mb/s for megabits per second. Note also that a 'second' being a primary unit under the conventions is ALWAYS a lower case character.
    15th Apr 2014
    Whilst I will agree with communications, in computers both are acceptable, unless Belkin (and many others) don't know what there doing. Below is a copy from my router
    Mode: G.992.3 (ADSL2)
    Upload: 819 Kbps.
    Download: 5005 Kbps.
    15th Apr 2014
    I worked in telecommunications for 23+ years (OTC then Telstra) and our engineers started the trend of using a 'p' instead of '/' after more than a decade of the technicians using '/'. But I'm sure I also remember that giga and mega were shown with capital letters (G, M) while kilo took a small k, eg kbps. Then again, my memory's not what it used to be - so maybe it's time to consult the "digital communications style manual" if such a thing exists (if not, maybe someone would like to write one...)!
    18th Apr 2014
    Sorry Graeme, but I have to tell you that Belkin and many others do NOT know what they are doing, as shown by that quote ... It is NOT 819 bps. Never in a million years is that K correct. What they have written there is 819 kelvins ................ISO is quite strict. Upper case is reserved for units named for famous scientists such as Watt . so we have kW for kilowatt. Note that when the name is used in full it does NOT take upper case so that a single watt is correct. You may think this is all daft but it was a carefully thought out system and has been in use in every science for a long long time and the sooner the newbies of the computer world join in the better it will be for everyone..
    24th Apr 2014
    This discussion of units is good and leads onto one of my concerns. The misuse of scientific units is very common these days. When I was studying it was always said that it was inappropriate to place an "s" after a unit eg 240 volt not 240 volts. It seems that the plural form is used just about everywhere these days including many text books. I am tempted to give in on such a trivial matter but at this stage I will keep pushing.

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