When choosing a satellite internet solution prepare to be bombarded with language consisting of MB's, GB's, Kbps, Mbps, MIR, CIR, 4:1, 8:1, FAP and so on... If you understand this uber-techie lingo then a thorough satellite internet proposal complete with bandwidth numbers, contention ratios and data consumption limits is just what you need. But if you don't, then you can nod you head and smile, but will probably feel more confused than informed.

Don't despair. In the paragraphs and tables that follow we have prepared a quick and easy guide that we hope will help you understand the tech speak and make an informed decision.


Bandwidth is a representation of your connection speed. You typically see it as Kbps or Mbps. These stand for kilobits per second and megabits per second respectively. Similar to miles per hour these measure the amount of data that is able to flow through your connect in one second. A megabit is roughly 1,000 times the size of a kilobit. (1,024 to be exact).

Typical bandwidth measurements you will see are 128 Kbps, 256 Kbps, 512 Kbps, 1 Mbps, 2 Mbps, 4 Mbps, 8 Mbps, etc... Notice that when we pass from 512 Kbps to 1 Mbps we change how we notate the speed. 1024 Kbps would also be 1 Mbps.

"So that's great," you say "but how do apply this to something real?" Here is a little chart that looks at some typical data uses and the bandwidth they would require.

bandwith chart

Data Consumption

Data consumption is a measure of the data you have used or, if you see it on a rate quote, a limit of the data you are allowed to use before being charged extra, throttled or shut down. This is usually given in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB).

A rate plan might include 500 MB and have a overage fee of $2 per MB. Unlike bandwidth, which tell you the capacity of your connect, these figures tell you the limit of data you are allowed to consume and the cost of exceeding that limit. Depending on your service and plan, you may pay and overage fee or you might be slowed down or shut down after exceeding your limit.

Here are some typical things you would access online and their approximate size.

data consumption chart

Contention Ratios

You may see some ratios displayed next to the bandwidth on a rate plan. These are there to let you know the percentage of the bandwidth that you are guaranteed to receive. If you subscribe to a plan that offers 512 Kbps with a 4:1 contention ratio, the you are able to access 512 Kbps but guaranteed 128 Kbps. (Divide by 4). Now that you have read the first section and mastered reading bandwidth figures you know that a 1 Mbps plan with an 8:1 contention would also guarantee 128 Kbps.

Another way contention is sometimes represented is by quoting MIR and CIR. Maximum information rate and committed information rate. Maximum bring your plan limit and committed being your minimum guarantee.

Other things to know...


You may run into something called a Fair Access Policy or Fair Use Policy, often notated as FAP or FUP. This let's you know what the provider will do after you exceed a limit that they have predetermined is necessary to ensure all user have reasonable access to the available bandwidth. Sometimes the provider is specific as to what the limit is and sometimes they are vague, only enforcing it when needed. Typically when you exceed a FAP limit you will have a throttled speed for the remainder of the billing cycle, but some providers charge per MB or GB for going over so it is important to know what the FAP is for your contract.

Bytes vs. bits

One Byte contains 8 bits. This isn't really that important to know unless you are trying to calculate between bandwidth and data consumption figures. Bandwidth is always depicted in bits while data consumption is given in Bytes. So if you are trying to figure out how long an 5 MB file will take to download at 1 Mbps you will need to multiply by 8 before dividing by the bandwidth.

We hope this little primer is helpful, but if you still have questions don't hesitate to contact us. We have a great team and many solutions and services to choose from and we are dedicated to helping you choose the right system for your requirements.