What Does “High Speed Internet” Mean, Exactly?

Ever wonder what a company means when it says its internet service is “high speed”? Then check out this table that documents the plethora of technologies that the FCC counts as “broadband” — be warned, speeds can vary by as much as 2000 percent!

In short, “broadband” is defined by the FCC as anything other than “dial up” — and “high speed” has no commonly-agreed-to definition.

  • One kilobit per second (Kbps or kbps) is 1,000 bits per second (bps)
  • One megabit per second (Mbps) is 1,000 Kbps or 1,000,000 bps
  • One gigabit per second (Gbps) is 1,000 Mbps or 1,000,000 Kbps or 1,000,000,000 bps
Technology Speed
Cable Basic: 4 Mbps to 6 Mbps
High End: 12 Mbps to 16 Mbps and faster
DSL Basic: 768 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps
High End: 3 Mbps to 7 Mbps
Fiber Optic Cable 15Mbps – 25 Mbps
Mobile – EDGE Up to 58Kbps, average 22Kbps
Mobile – 3G AT&T: Download, 700-1.7 Mbps; Upload, 500 Kbps – 1.2 Mbp
Sprint: Download, 600Kbps – 1.4 Mbps
Verizon: 600 Kbps to 1.4Mbps
Mobile – 4G Download: 3-6 Mbps
Satellite 10 – 20kbps
WiMax (like Clear) Download: 3-6 Mbps
South Korea 1 Gbps (2012)
Japan Average advertised: 93.6 Mbps (2007)
France Average advertised: 44.1 Mbps (2007)
Data: ArsTechnica: FiOS speedsAT&T Cell Phone CoverageCLEAR WiMax 4gG,GigaOm: KoreaHigh Speed Internet Access Guide: DSL v Forum (EDGE)Sprint 4GVerizon 3G BasicsWebsite Optimization: France, Japan,Wikipedia: Satellite Internet Access

NOTE: These data ignore issues of latency (satellite, mobile), privacy (cable) and line-sharing (cable). The table also ignores price, both the difference in costs for the various technologies in the U.S. and the vast difference in pricing plans when the U.S. is compared with Asia and Europe.

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By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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