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Mbps vs. Gbps: Do You Need Gigabit Internet?

An internet connection with gigabit speeds or faster may be more than what you need.

Internet providers would simply love for you to sign up for their fastest plan available. But let’s get real here, folks: You don’t need Gigabit internet if all you do is check email and post pictures of your latest culinary efforts on social media. Heck, you definitely don’t need it in a household of five. Gigabit internet and faster is best for running a public web server, transferring large files to and from a remote network, or livestreaming gameplay to Twitch.

So, what’s the difference between megabits and gigabits? Is one internet speed faster than the other? We’ll break down the technical details as simply as possible so you can determine if you need gigabit internet speeds or a slower connection.

Is your current internet speed in the megabit or gigabit range?

To find out, run our speed test from a wired connection and compare the results to your plan’s advertised speed. If you’re on Wi-Fi, move next to the router (if you can) to get the best results from our test.

To find out, install our mobile app, run our speed test next to the router or gateway to get the best results, and then check your numbers against your plan’s advertised speed. For the most accurate speed reading, run the test from a wired connection instead.

Do you need gigabit internet speeds?

Your need for gigabit internet speeds squarely depends on what you do online and how many devices you have accessing the internet at one time.

For now, Gigabit internet is probably overkill for most homes because the chances of all five family members streaming Netflix in 4K to their devices simultaneously—which adds up to only 125Mbps anyway—is rare at best. You definitely don’t need Gigabit internet if all you do is check email and browse the internet.

If anything, Gigabit internet is nice to have if you need to download large files fast, like full digital games and their chunky updates. The type of internet connection matters, too, as livestreamers get more upload bandwidth using fiber than they do with cable internet.

Here are some online activities where you won’t notice much of a difference with Gigabit internet and some where you will.

Best with slow internetBest with fast internet
  • Surfing the web
  • Checking email
  • Playing games online
  • Streaming music
  • Streaming 4K videos
  • Downloading large files
  • Video chatting
  • Livestreaming
  • Downloading games and updates
  • Streaming games
  • Streaming video

    Streaming high-resolution video is one of the most bandwidth-intensive things you can do online. If you have people streaming on multiple devices in your home, the speed requirements can add up fast. Take a look:

    Netflix (4K)Apple TV+ (4K)Hulu (4K)
    Bandwidth (one device)25Mbps25Mbps16Mbps
    Bandwidth (four devices)100Mbps100Mbps64Mbps

    To help, video services like Netflix and Hulu have a lot of tricks for keeping your viewing experience smooth, such as preloading (buffering) video in the background and lowering the video quality if your connection can’t handle the load. But even Netflix can’t help much if too many people try to stream at the same time.

    Theoretically, Gigabit internet has enough bandwidth for 20 people to stream 4K content at the same time—and use only half of the available bandwidth. This is why Gigabit internet is overkill for most homes until 8K content streaming becomes the norm.

    If you want to know the nitty-gritty details of speed requirements for video services, see how much speed you need to stream video.

    Video chat

    Video chat requires a decent amount of speed, just like streaming 4K video. The big difference is that while Netflix needs a fast download speed, video chat needs both its upload and download speeds to be fast. This is where the type of connection becomes more important.

    Gigabit cable internet has enough upload speed for a stable video call, but a Gigabit fiber connection runs at gigabit speeds both ways. This makes it ideal for video chat like Zoom and Skype, as well as livestreaming on sites like Twitch.

    If you want to find out more, check out what makes a good download and upload speed.

    Gaming online

    Gaming online doesn’t require a lot of bandwidth. Speed is still important for having your game play smoothly, but it’s latency, rather than bandwidth, that is most important. The higher your latency, the more lag you will experience when playing. Most gigabit connections (especially fiber) have really low latency—but you can often get the low-latency connection you need for online games without splurging on the fastest plan available.

    Want the fastest internet connection for gaming online?

    Verizon Fios is our top choice for the best internet provider for gaming due to its low latency. We list other top picks, too, based on pricing, availability, and more.

    Streaming games

    Game streaming is different from online gaming. Services like Xbox Cloud Gaming and Amazon Luna stream games to your devices from the cloud, similar to how movies and TV shows stream from Netflix and Hulu. However, because games are interactive, you need good download and upload speeds for smooth gameplay.

    Xbox Cloud Gaming, for instance, requires a constant download speed of at least 10Mbps on smartphones and 20Mbps on tablets, consoles, and computers. That’s less than what you need to stream Netflix on 4K, but you’ll probably see issues on a 100Mbps connection if other household members are using the internet, too.

    To find out more about Gigabit internet, check out the consumer’s guide to internet speed.

    Which providers offer Gigabit internet and faster?

    “Gigabit” internet plans are 940Mbps or 1,000Mbps, depending on the provider and the hardware they use. Nearly all cable and fiber internet providers offer gigabit speeds.

    There’s no official name for speeds between 1,001–1,999Mbps (Intel calls it Gig+), although these speeds are generally associated with multi-gig internet. For now, the fastest cable internet plan you can get today is 1,500Mbps and upload speeds typically reach up to 50Mbps. That will change in the coming years as cable internet providers like Xfinity continue to upgrade their networks to support the 10G Platform, enabling fiber-like symmetrical speeds over traditional cable TV lines.

    The fastest fiber internet plan you can get is 10,000Mbps, but some major internet providers like Google Fiber and Optimum only top out at 8,000Mbps for now—AT&T at 5,000Mbps. Fiber connections generally have identical download and upload speeds, although we’ve seen a few instances where providers are still working to match their upload speeds with their downloads.

    ServicePlanTypeSpeedCostGet it
    Astound Broadband940 Mbps InternetCable, FiberUp to 940Mbps$50.00–$60.00/mo.*
    Astound Broadband1,500 Mbps InternetFiberUp to 1,500Mbps$60.00–$70.00/mo.*
    AT&TInternet 1000FiberUp to 1,000Mbps$80.00/mo.#
    AT&TInternet 2000FiberUp to 2,000Mbps$125.00/mo.**
    AT&TInternet 5000FiberUp to 5,000Mbps$225.00/mo.††
    CenturyLinkCenturyLink Fiber GigabitFiberUp to 940Mbps$75.00/mo.‡‡
    CoxCox Go Super FastCableUp to 1,000Mbps$109.99/mo.§§
    EarthLinkFiber 1 GigFiberUp to 1,000Mbps$89.95/mo.||||
    EarthLinkFiber 2 GigFiberUp to 2,000Mbps$129.95/mo.||||
    EarthLinkFiber 5 GigFiberUp to 5,000Mbps$189.95/mo.||||
    FrontierFrontier Fiber 1 GigFiberUp to 1,000Mbps$59.99/mo.##
    FrontierFrontier Fiber 2 GigFiberUp to 2,000Mbps$99.99/mo.***
    FrontierFrontier Fiber 5 GigFiberUp to 5,000Mbps$154.99/mo.###
    Google Fiber1 GigFiberUp to 1,000Mbps$70.00/mo.†††
    Google Fiber2 GigFiberUp to 2.000Mbps$100.00/mo.†††
    Google Fiber5 GigFiberUp to 5,000Mbps$125.00/mo.††††
    Google Fiber8 GigFiberUp to 8,000Mbps$150.00/mo.††††
    MediacomPrime Internet 1 GigCableUp to 1,000Mbps$54.99/mo.‡‡‡
    MetroNet1 GigFiberUp to 1,000Mbps$59.95/mo.§§§
    Optimum1 Gig Fiber InternetFiberUp to 940Mbps$45.00/mo.||||||
    Optimum2 Gig Fiber InternetFiberUp to 2,000Mbps$55.00/mo.||||||
    Optimum5 Gig Fiber InternetFiberUp to 5,000Mbps$80.00/mo.||||||
    Optimum8 Gig Fiber InternetFiberUp to 8,000Mbps$265.00/mo.||||||
    SparklightInternet GigCableUp to 1,000Mbps$115.00/mo.****
    SpectrumSpectrum Internet® GigCable, fiberUp to 1,000Mbps
    (wireless speeds may vary)
    for 12 mos.
    Verizon FiosInternet 1 GigFiberUp to 940Mbps$89.99/mo.‡‡‡
    Verizon FiosInternet 2 GigFiberUp to 1,500-2,300Mbps$94.99/mo.#####
    WindstreamKinetic Internet by Windstream 1 GigFiberUp to 1,000Mbps$69.99/mo.||||||||
    WindstreamKinetic Internet by Windstream 2 GigFiberUp to 2,000Mbps$169.99/mo.******
    WOW! InternetWow! Fiber 1 GigFiberUp to 1,000Mbps$80.00/mo.####
    WOW! InternetWow! Fiber 3 GigFiberUp to 3,000Mbps$100.00/mo.####
    WOW! InternetWow! Fiber 5 GigFiberUp to 5,000Mbps$185.00/mo.####
    XfinityGigabit ExtraCable1,200Mbps$80.00/mo.*****
    Ziply FiberFiber Internet GigFiberUp to 1,000Mbps$50.00/mo.‡‡‡‡‡
    Ziply FiberFiber Internet 2 GigFiberUp to 2,000Mbps$60.00/mo.‡‡‡‡‡
    Ziply FiberFiber Internet 5 GigFiberUp to 5,000Mbps$90.00/mo.‡‡‡‡‡
    Ziply FiberFiber Internet 10 GigFiberUp to 10,000Mbps$300.00/mo.‡‡‡‡‡

    Do any providers offer gigabit internet in your area?

    Enter your zip code below to find out if there are any 1 Gbps or faster plans available to you.

    Mbps vs. Gbps: What’s the difference?

    The difference between megabits per second (Mbps) and gigabits per second (Gbps) is the number of bits you can send and receive each second.

    In the days of dial-up, modem speeds were usually measured in kilobits per second (Kbps), like 28.8k and 56k. Modern-day broadband speeds are now measured in Mbps or Gbps. Here’s how the bits stack up:

    • 1,000 bits = 1 kilobit
    • 1,000 kilobits = 1 megabit (or 1 million bits)
    • 1,000 megabits = 1 gigabit (or 1 billion bits)

    Internet speed in Mbps or Gbps doesn’t mean data travels at specific speeds like cars zooming down a freeway—all data travels at the same speed, whether you have a DSL, cable, or fiber connection. Internet speed is more about the amount of data sent along the line in any given second. The higher the bit count per second, the faster you can download a file.

    Look at it this way. Imagine your internet connection is a faucet, and your provider cranks down on the knob. The water (data) trickles in a thin stream (1Mbps) into your sink. When your sink finally fills, you swear an entire decade has passed. That’s your slow-as-snails internet connection.

    Now your provider has turned up the knob, and your data flows like a waterfall (1,000Mbps). You’re using the same faucet, only the sink fills up faster with more water (data) going in, so you’ve only aged a few seconds versus ten long, agonizing years. That translates to a fast internet connection.

    Bits vs. Bytes: What’s the difference?

    Although internet speed is generally measured in bits per second, you might also see terms like “megabytes” and “gigabytes.” Bits and bytes are both units of data, but they’re used in different circumstances.

    • 1 bit = a single unit of data that is either a “1” or a “0”
    • 1 byte = 8 bits

    The term “bit” is typically associated with hardware and software. For instance, a 64-bit processor can handle a single data unit containing 64 bits. The term “byte” is typically associated with file size and storage because 100GB is easier to remember and shorter to write than 800,000Mb.

    The bottom line is:

    • Internet speed is measured in bits: megabits (Mb) and gigabits (Gb)
    • Storage and file size are measured in bytes: megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB).

    Note the use of the lower-case “b” for speed and the upper-case “B” for size.

    If you want to know more, check out our article on the difference between bits and bytes.

    How to convert between Mbps and Gbps

    Because data rates are metric, converting between data rates is pretty easy. To move from one metric prefix to the next, you multiply or divide by 1,000. In other words, you just have to add or remove three zeros at the end of the number (or shift the decimal point by three places).

    For example, to find how fast a 1,200Mbps internet connection is in kbps, you would multiply by 1,000:

    1,200 × 1,000 = 1,200,000kbps

    To convert this same speed to gigabits per second, you would divide by 1,000:

    1,200 ÷ 1,000 = 1.2Gbps

    You don’t normally have to convert between bits and bytes (unless you’re trying to manually estimate how long a download would take), but to do so, just multiply the number of bytes by eight or divide the number of bytes by eight.

    150MB × 8 = 1,200Mb

    1,200Mb ÷ 8 = 150MB

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    The verdict: Gigabit internet is overkill for most homes

    You don’t need a gigabit connection if all you do is surf the internet, check your email, and stream low-quality music. Gigabit plans aren’t exactly cheap, so there’s no need for the added expense if you’ll never utilize the boost in speed.

    Consider your online activities before taking the gigabit plunge. Livestreaming and lossless audio streaming require a wider data pipeline than watching cat videos on YouTube. Knowing the difference between megabits and gigabits is a great tool for gauging what you need against all the hype surrounding gigabit connectivity—now that you know, you can pay for gigabit internet only if you truly need it.

    FAQ about Gigabit internet

    Do internet speeds go faster than a gigabit?

    The fastest speeds available for residential internet top out at 10Gbps (10,000Mbps) using fiber. Business internet can reach up to 100Gbps, if not faster.

    Of course, if you look at the infrastructure that the internet is built on, you can find connections carrying much more data. For example, the undersea cables that connect continents measure their bandwidth in terabits per second (Tbps). That’s 1,000 faster than a gigabit per second.

    How do I get Gigabit Wi-Fi?

    You can get Gigabit Wi-Fi by purchasing a router and a wireless device (smartphone, laptop) supporting Wi-Fi 6 or newer, 160 MHz channels, and multi-gig internet ports. You can get around 1,680Mbps at close range using a 160 MHz channel versus 850Mbps using an 80 MHz one. Devices based on the newer Wi-Fi 6E spec give you more reliable top speeds if you use the new 6 GHz band.

    Wi-Fi 5 can be speedy, too. You can get around 1,203Mbps in real-world speed at close range using a Wi-Fi 5 device (2 x 2), a 160 MHz channel, and a multi-gig internet port.

    If you’re in dire need of an upgrade, we have a few ideas based on in-house testing:

    Be sure your wireless devices support gigabit speeds before you invest in a new gigabit-capable router. Also, keep in mind that having a router and a device capable of gigabit speeds will do you no good if your internet connection is your slowest point. Even if your phone can handle 850Mbps in real-world speed, 400Mbps is the most you’ll get from a 400Mbps internet plan.

    Does my device support Gigabit Wi-Fi speeds?

    Whether your device supports Gigabit Wi-Fi speeds depends on the Wi-Fi spec it uses, the channel width it supports, and the number of antennas it has. Budget devices generally use a one-transmit one-receive configuration (1 x 1) while premium devices use a 2 x 2 configuration. Here’s a chart to give you an idea:

    Wi-Fi 5 speeds

    Configuration Channel width Theoretical speed Real-world speed*
    2 x 2 160 MHz 1,733Mbps 1,203Mbps
    2 x 2 80 MHz 866Mbps 660Mbps
    2 x 2 40 MHz 433Mbps 330Mbps

    * at two feet.

    Wi-Fi 6 speeds

    Configuration Channel width Theoretical speed Real-world speed*
    2 x 2 160 MHz 2,400Mbps 1,680Mbps
    2 x 2 80 MHz 1,200Mbps 850Mbps
    2 x 2 40 MHz 600Mbps 425Mbps

    * at two feet.

    If your device has only a 1 x 1 antenna configuration, then halve the speeds listed above.


    Author -

    Kevin Parrish has more than a decade of experience working as a writer, editor, and product tester. He began writing about computer hardware and soon branched out to other devices and services such as networking equipment, phones and tablets, game consoles, and other internet-connected devices. His work has appeared in Tom’s Hardware, Tom's Guide, Maximum PC, Digital Trends, Android Authority, How-To Geek, Lifewire, and others. At, he focuses on network equipment testing and review.

    Editor - Cara Haynes

    Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.

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