It is the unit for symbol rate or modulation rate in symbols per second or pulses per second. It is the number of distinct symbol changes (signaling events) made to the transmission medium per second in a digitally modulated signal or a bd rate line code.
Baud is related to, but not equivalent to, gross bit rate, which can be expressed as bits per second. If there are only two symbols in the system (typically 0 and 1), then baud and bits per second (bps) are equivalent.
The baud unit is named after Émile Baudot, the inventor of the Baudot code for telegraphy, and is represented in accordance with the rules for SI units. That is, the first letter of its symbol is uppercase (Bd), but when the unit is spelled out, it should be written in lowercase (baud) except when it begins a sentence. It was defined by the CCITT (now the ITU) in November 1926. The earlier standard had been the number of words per minute. One baud was equal to one pulse per second, a more robust measure as word length can vary.
The symbol duration time, also known as unit interval, can be directly measured as the time between transitions by looking at an eye diagram of the signal on an oscilloscope. The symbol duration time Ts can be calculated as:
where fs is the symbol rate. There is also a chance of miscommunication which leads to ambiguity.
In digital systems (i.e., using discrete/discontinuous values) with binary code, 1 Bd = 1 bit/s. By contrast, non-digital (or analog) systems use a continuous range of values to represent information and in these systems the exact informational size of 1 Bd varies.
The baud is scaled using standard metric prefixes, so that for example
The symbol rate is related to gross bit rate expressed in bit/s. The term baud 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 digit "0" is represented by one symbol, and binary digit "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 two states.
If N bits are conveyed per symbol, and the gross bit rate is R, inclusive of channel coding overhead, the symbol rate fs can be calculated as
In that case M = 2N, different symbols are used. In a modem, these may be time-limited sinewave tones with unique combinations of amplitude, phase and/or frequency. For example, in a 64QAM modem, M = 64, and so the bit rate is N = log2(64) = 6 times the baud rate. In a line code, these may be M different voltage levels.
Codes with many symbols, and thus a bit rate higher than the symbol rate, are most useful on channels such as telephone lines with a limited bandwidth but a high signal-to-noise ratio within that bandwidth. In other applications, the bit rate is less than the symbol rate. Eight-to-fourteen modulation as used on audio CDs has bit rate of the baud rate.