Understanding Internet Speed


Slow internet might be the story of your life in Zambia but you still need to understand how it works. What really is internet speed, and how is it measured?

First there’s what’s called download speed, which is how fast you can get files from the internet to your device. Then there’s upload speed, which is how fast you can send information or files from your device to the internet.

Now, you all see those numbers like 250kb/s, 2Mb/s or even something like 24kb/s which is basically Greek to any lay man. Kbps means kilobits (1,000 bits) per second, Mb/s means megabits (1,000,000 bits) per second and KB/s means kilobytes (1,000 bytes) per second. By the way 8 bits is equal to 1 byte so do’t get confused about the terms bit and byte.

You may be asking questions like “why is my 2mbps DSL internet bundle only at a download speed of 250KB/s?” Remember I told you the ratio of bits and bytes is 8 bits to 1 byte? Therefore, 2,000,000 bits (2 megabits) is equal to 250,000 bytes (250 kilobytes). That’s 2,000,000 divided by 8 so it’s 250 KB/s. So if you have 10 MB file, it will take you 40 seconds to download the file completely. That’s actually pretty fast!

Another thing worth noting is the difference between rated speed and the real time speed of your connection. Rated speed is the bandwidth speed (how much speed your connection is able to withstand) measured in bits per second, while real time speed is measured in bytes per second because files are shown as bytes.

For example, if you have an internet connection of 200mbps, that is the rated speed (internet bandwidth) and only means your connection is able to handle up to that speed. It does not mean that is the actual rate at which you are downloading files. The actual rate is called internet speed, and those are the numbers you see on your screen changing as your file is being downloaded.

If you are downloading 10 files at a speed of 20MB/s, that means that your bandwidth has been reached. If you download some more files as these are being downloaded, your speed for each file will reduce to fit the bandwidth. That means if you add on 10 more files, your speed will slow to 10MB/s so all 20 files being downloaded can fit the bandwidth.


I hope this was clear enough for you to understand the difference in the terms. Happy downloading!

Pics courtesy of US Census Bureau and Dogtown Media



Tech Blogger & Marketer.

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