This is an abbreviation for “bits per second” and a measurement of how fast data is transmitted.
Bps is traditionally used to describe modem speeds or the speed of a digital connection; however, due to the increased speed of modern hardware, you won’t find many references to simply Bps. Instead, you will usually see speeds described in Kbps (kilobits per second), Mbps (megabits per second), or Tbps (Terabits per second).
These labels are often used to specify the speed with which computers can upload and download information over the Internet, and are dependent upon the type of internet connection you have, the level of service you subscribe to, and the limitations of your modem. We also use these terms to describe the speed of internal connections, such as your wireless router. These speeds can also affect your upload and download speeds, as well as how fast information can be transferred between local devices.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is speed measured in bits?
Bits are the smallest unit of information a computer can processes, so bps reflects how many of those bits can be transferred in a given second. As devices have become faster and can now transfer thousands, millions, and even trillions of bits a second, metric variations on bps have been used to describe these modern speeds
How does a bit per second compare to a byte per second?
On occasion, you may see speeds referred to in terms of bytes (bytes per second, megabytes per second, etc.). A byte is equal to eight bits, so 1 byte per second is the same as 8 bits per second. Bytes are more commonly used to measure the size of a file, such as a 5 MB song; whereas bits are more often used in reference to speed.
Why the difference? There are primarily two reasons for this. First, different protocols measure information differently. When your computer looks at the size of a file, it reads information in terms of bytes. Most data transfer protocols, on the other hand, process information at the bit level. The other reason is simple marketing: If you’re trying to sell your blazing fast Internet service, saying it has download speeds of up to 50 Mbps is a lot more impressive than saying it only gets 6.25 MBps.
So my Internet connection can’t download a 10-megabyte file in a second?
Probably not. If you Internet speed is 10Mbps, that means the maximum download speed you can reach is 10 megabits per second. A 10-megabyte song is actually 80 megabits, so unless you have an 80 Mbps or higher connection, it’s going to take longer than a second to download that file. Even if you do have a connection capable of downloading the file in a second, it may still take longer due to other factors, such as your bandwidth, other programs or computers utilizing your connection, the speed of the server you’re downloading the file from, etc.