A Megabit is a unit of digital information abbreviated as ‘Mb’ with a lowercase ‘b’ to prevent confusing it with the term Megabyte, which is abbreviated with an uppercase ‘B’.
The Megabit is equivalent to 1,000,000 bits or 1000 kilobits.
Megabit is one of the more common measurements of data size. In particular, upload and download speeds on the Internet are usually expressed in Megabits per second, or Mbps. For example, the average broadband connection speed in the UK in 2014 was 18.7 Mbps, but rural areas were lower at 13.6 Mbps.
These connections speeds allow streaming movies, videos, audio and large file downloads such as HD movies. General guidelines say streaming a video in 1080p requires a bitrate between 3-6 Mbps. If you plan on uploading HD video, make sure your upload speed is capable of those speeds as advertised ISP connection speeds usually reflect the maximum available. That amount may fluctuate based on your location, local network, network traffic and even time of day.
Still, the average broadband connection speed is 321 faster than a 56kbps dial up modem. Older modems were even slower. Some examples are 1.2kbps in the mid to late 1980s, 2.4 kbps, 28.8 kbps and finally 56kbps in the late 1990s.
Local networks however, used Ethernet cards capable of megabits per second all throughout the 1990s. Typical network cards were labeled as 10/100 Mbps. That is, they could transfer data at either 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps depending on the other components in the network. Data could only travel as fast as the slowest component.
In the 2000s, these megabit network cards were surpassed by gigabit ethernet cards. So local networks are able to transfer data much faster than is possible over the Internet today, though broadband connection speeds are certainly heading in the same direction. Eventually we will all talk about gigabits per second instead of megabits per second when streaming videos, or downloading files.