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In telecommunications, bit rate or data transfer rate is the average number of bits, characters, or blocks per unit time passing between equipment in a data transmission system. This is typically measured in multiples of the unit bits per second or occasionally in bytes per second. Various other units may also be used to measure the data rate. Currently, the most common modern residential high-speed Internet connection is measured in bits (not bytes) per second. The distinction between bits and bytes, while important, remains as a cause for some confusion amongst many of the non-technically knowledgeable.
To be as explicit as possible, both the prefix (M or Mi) and the unit (b or B) must be known. For example, the abbreviation 2 Mb can actually be expanded in 4 different ways (mega- vs mebi- and -bit vs -byte):
The table above shows an approximate 5% difference between the corresponding mega- and mebi- prefixes with a 800% difference between bit and byte units.
b is the IEEE standard symbol for bit and B is the standard symbol for byte. In the context of data rate units, one byte refers to 8 bits. For example, when a 1 Mb/s connection is advertised, it usually means that the maximum achievable download bandwidth is 1 megabit/s (million bits per second), which is 0.125 MB/s (megabyte per second), or about 0.1192 MiB/s (mebibyte per second).
k- stands for kilo, meaning 1,000, while Ki- stands for kilobinary ("kibi-"), meaning 1,024. The standardized binary prefixes such as Ki- were relatively recently introduced (in IEEE 1541-2002 that was reaffirmed on 27 March 2008). K- is often used to mean 1,024, especially in KB, the kilobyte in its binary sense.
In 1999, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) published Amendment 2 to "IEC 60027-2: Letter symbols to be used in electrical technology – Part 2: Telecommunications and electronics." This standard, approved in 1998, introduced the prefixes kibi-, mebi-, gibi-, tebi-, pebi-, and exbi- to be used in specifying binary multiples of a quantity. The name is derived from the first two letters of the original SI prefixes followed by bi (short for binary). It also clarifies that the SI prefixes be used only to mean powers of 10 and never powers of 2.
These units are often used in a manner inconsistent with the IEC standard. See above section titled "variations".
A kilobit per second -kbps, kbit/s, or kb/s- is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
A megabit per second -Mbps, Mbit/s, or Mb/s- (not to be confused with MBps, or MB/s, which would be megabytes per second: also not to be confused with mbit/s which would be millibits per second: also not to be confused with Mbitpps which would be megabits per picosecond) is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
A gigabit per second -Gbps, Gbit/s, or Gb/s- is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
A terabit per second -Tbps, Tbit/s, or Tb/s- is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
Note that for binary prefixes the prefix name (e.g. "kibi") is not capitalized, but the prefix symbol (e.g. "Ki") is.
A kibibit per second (Kibit/s or Kib/s) is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
A mebibit per second (Mibit/s or Mib/s) is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
A gibibit per second (Gibit/s or Gib/s) is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
A tebibit per second (Tibit/s or Tib/s) is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
WARNING: These units are often not used in the suggested ways! See above section titled "variations".
A kilobyte per second -kBps or kB/s- is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
A megabyte per second -MBps or MB/s- (not to be confused with Mbps or Mb/s, which would be megabits per second) is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
A gigabyte per second -GBps or GB/s- is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
A terabyte per second -TBps or TB/s- is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
A kibibyte per second (KiB/s) is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
A mebibyte per second (MiB/s) is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
A gibibyte per second (GiB/s) is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
A tebibyte per second (TiB/s) is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:
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