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Bit vs Symbol | Difference between Bit and Symbol

This page compares Bit vs Symbol and mentions difference between Bit and Symbol used in data communication with examples.

Introduction: As shown bits are converted into symbol or signal format in order to make system bandwidth efficient. For BPSK , one symbol (carrier phase) represents one bit and hence symbol rate equals bit rate. Similarly in AM modulation, each signal element carry one binary data and hence symbol rate or baud rate is same as bit rate.

BPSK vs QPSK constellation

In QPSK modulation, 2 bits are represented by one symbol or signal waveform. Hence Symbol rate is one half of bit rate. As a result it occupies half bandwidth compare to BPSK waveform.

QAM constellation

In 16QAM example, 4 bits are represented by one symbol or complex signal waveform. Hence Symbol rate is (1/4)th times of bit rate.
Example : For input bit string of "1010" , complex symbol output is (-3-j*3)*KMOD.
Where, KMOD is (1/root(10)).

Symbol rate (i.e. baud rate) = bit rate/Number of bits per symbol.

Tabular difference between Bit and Symbol

Following table mentions difference between Bit and Symbol with respect to various parameters.

Parameters Bit Symbol
• Format It is in digital binary form. It is either zero ('0') or one ('1'). It is in complex form or analog form.
• Usage It is stored in the memory in one and zero format. Symbol is used to map more than one bits and are used to transmit bits over channel after baseband and carrier modulation.
• Measurement unit Bit rate referred as number of bits transmitted per second. Symbol rate referred as number of symbols transmitted per second. It is also known by "Baud rate".
• Application Raw data which are in various forms such as texts, numbers, images, audio and video files are usually stored in bit formats. As mentioned above bits are mapped into symbol forms. These modulated data after modulation is measured in symbols per sec.

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