What Does Nanosecond Mean?

A nanosecond (ns) is equal to one billionth of a second. It is also equal to 1000th of a microsecond, or 1000 picoseconds.


Nanosecond is sometimes abbreviated nsec.

Techopedia Explains Nanosecond

The nanosecond is a particular measure of time that has been applied to information technology in many different ways. As technology improves, the nanosecond has become a common benchmark measurement for different types of scientific and digital processes.

As computer technology evolved, the nanosecond scale became a common way to measure the time that it takes for computers to access memory. These time frames are also often used for laser beam technologies and different kinds of light or radio frequency transmissions.

Some scientists also call a nanosecond a "light-foot" because of the distance that light travels in one nanosecond, which is approximately 11.8 inches. In the past, engineers have compared this speed to the speed of data transfer over wires and cables.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.