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What is a Baud Rate?

Brad Cole
Brad Cole

Baud rate is a technical term associated with modems, digital televisions, and other technical devices. It is also known as symbol rate and modulation rate. The term roughly means the speed that data is transmitted, and it is a derived value based on the number of symbols transmitted per second.

The units for this rate are either symbols per second or pulses per second. Baud can be determined by using the following formula: Baud = (Gross Bit Rate / Number of Bits per Symbol). This can be used to translate baud into a bit rate using the following formula: Bit Rate = (Bits per Symbol × Symbol Rate). Baud can be abbreviated using the shortened form “Bd” when being used for technical purposes.

A modem's data transfer speed is represented by its Baud rate.
A modem's data transfer speed is represented by its Baud rate.

The significance of these formulas is that higher baud rates equate to greater amounts of data transmission, as long as the bits per symbol are the same. A system using 4800 baud modems that has 4 bits per symbol will send less data than a system using 9600 baud modems that also has 4 bits per symbol. So, all other things being equal, a higher rate is generally preferred.

Mentioning baud rate will often make older computer users nostalgic. When modems first became popular at the end of the 20th century, they tended to use telephone lines and were generally referred to by this rate. A new computer user might have started out with a 2400 baud modem, then upgraded to a 4800 baud or 9600 baud modem as technology advanced and prices dropped. Extreme changes in infrastructure and advances in technology caused data transmission devices to become both varied and more powerful, and that resulted in people generally using bit rate rather than baud to describe their speeds.

The baud unit is named after Jean Maurice Emile Baudot, who was a French inventor and telegraph engineer. Baudot lived from 1854 to 1903 and is best known for developing the Baudot code and a system of printing telegraphs, both of which helped to revolutionize telecommunications.

Discussion Comments


It kind of sounds like it might not even be able to keep up with the internet.


The symbol rate is related to but should not be confused with gross bit rate expressed in bit/s.

The term baud rate has sometimes incorrectly been used to mean bit rate, since these rates are the same in old modems as well as in the simplest digital communication links using only one bit per symbol, such that binary "0" is represented by one symbol, and binary "1" by another symbol.

In more advanced modems and data transmission techniques, a symbol may have more than two states, so it may represent more than one bit (a bit (binary digit) always represents one of exactly two states).


how is the speed of baud rate measured?


Actually @cfmom, though it is not used commonly by the everyday computer user, it is still used by those who are in the business of working with computers, as well as some other office equipment. Telephone workers may still use it to discuss phone wire, and it is still used when discussing fax machines. For example, a fax machine can still be set to various baud rates.


So are there any areas where Baud rate is still the primary means of measurement, or is it pretty much just entirely a thing of the past? It kinds of sounds like it might not even be able to keep up with the internet speeds that most people use today. Can anybody clear this up for me?

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    • A modem's data transfer speed is represented by its Baud rate.
      By: Graça Victoria
      A modem's data transfer speed is represented by its Baud rate.