Bits per second (bps) is a typical way of measuring how much data is transferred across networks and transmission lines. Bits per second is abbreviated as “bps” in a lowercase “b” because “Bps” – uppercase “B” – stands for “bytes per second”. A byte corresponds to eight bits.
Most ISPs quote their rates in Mbps, or Megabits per second. The terms can be confusing because storage device sizes are given in Megabytes or Gigabytes. For example a two hour HD movie is about 3.0-4.5 Gigabytes (GB),or about 3000-4500 Megabits (MB). When you go to download that movie to your computer or mobile device, the time it will take depends on your connection speed in Megabits. So a 3 GB HD movie will take 54 minutes to download at 5 Megabits per second.
In May 2013, the average UK broadband connection speed was 14.7 Mbps (Megabits per second). It has been steadily increasing. In November of 2008 the average was 3.6 Mbps. That’s over 300% improvement in five years. Actual connection speeds users experience still vary depending on location, carrier, and network congestion (often varies by time of day).
Bits per second is also referred to as bitrate. Bitrate is commonly referred to as a measure quality of media content, as well as data transfer speeds. In this sense it is a measurement of how many bits of information are provided per second in a file. For example, an audio file at 192 Kbps will generally sound better and clearer than the same audio file at 160 Kbps.
In terms of bitrate, understanding exactly what that is becomes important if you are planning a live streaming event. Higher bit rates result in higher overall bandwidth usage and ultimately a higher cost. The ideal situation for streaming is to offer the best bit rate your viewers can use while still remaining in budget.