Gbps, short for Gigabits per second, is a data transfer speed measurement used for high-speed networks that equal to 1,000 megabits per second; 1,000 000 kilobits per second; and 1,000, 000, 000 bits per second.
The first gigabit Ethernet network cards appeared in the 1990s. Local area networks (Ethernets, or LANs) were able to communicate at blazing speeds compared the previous standard of 100 Mbps. While one Gbps has become a standard for LANs, the technology has continued to improve. Four Gbps and 10 Gbps network cards are widely available.
Similar access speeds for the Internet though, are just beginning. In the 1980s, to access online communities (the Internet didn’t exist in the form it does now) you needed to use a dial up modem. At first the modems only worked at 300 baud – baud is another term for bits per second. That’s only bits, not gigabits, megabits, or even kilobits. Just bits. Modem technology improved until by the late 1990s most developed areas were able to use 56 Kbps, which is 56000 baud, modems.
Throughout the first decade of the 21st century broadband Internet connections became standard in many countries. Access speeds grew to an average of 14.7 Mb/s (Megabits per second) in the UK as of May 2013.
By contrast, gigabit Internet provides online access over 17,000 times faster than the fastest dial-up modem. There are a few places that you can currently get access to Gigabit Internet. Most ISPs provide Internet access speeds in terms of megabits per second (Mbps), but there are services that offer the Gbps connections speeds. These are most often used in business applications, though some companies are expanding the offer to consumers.
Google Fiber is currently being rolled out in the US bringing 1 Gbps access to three cities so far. Other cities are planned, but which they are is a mystery to everyone but Google.
In the UK, BT is offering limited gigabit Internet access. Other smaller startups are also popping up offering gigabit access speeds as well.