Bit Error Rate

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What Does Bit Error Rate Mean?

The bit error rate (BER) of a transmission is the percentage of bits in the transmission that have errors as a result of noise, interference or other issues. The bit error rate can be used to determine the quality of a signal and the relative success of packet delivery. It can be an essential part of examining different types of systems for quality and efficacy.

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Techopedia Explains Bit Error Rate

Many IT professionals talk about problems with a bit error rate as the "integrity of data transmitted over a network being compromised." Professionals can calculate the bit error rate by taking the number of errors over the total number of bits sent.

It is also important to note that the BER can be different for wired systems, compared to wireless systems. In many wireless or radio transmissions, the main culprit of a high bit error rate is signal noise. Crosstalk and other problems can contribute to a degradation of the signal. In a fiber optic line or other wired setup, which is more shielded from outside interference, one of the main causes of data errors is problems with the installed hardware. Engineers and others look at the bit error rate to determine how well a system is sending and receiving messages, and what can be done to improve its quality.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
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.