56 kbit/s line

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A 56 kbit/s line is a digital connection capable of carrying 56 kilobits per second (kbit/s), or 56,000 bit/s, the data rate of a classical single channel digital telephone line in North America. In many urban areas, which have seen wide deployment of faster, cheaper technologies, 56 kbit/s lines are generally considered to be an obsolete technology.

The figure of 56 kbit/s is derived from its implementation using the same digital infrastructure used since the 1960s for digital telephony in the PSTN, which uses a PCM sampling rate of 8,000 Hz used with 8-bit sample encoding to encode analogue signals into a digital stream of 64,000 bit/s.

However, in the T-carrier systems used in the U.S. and Canada, a technique called bit-robbing uses, in every sixth frame, the least significant bit in the time slot associated with the voice channel for Channel Associated Signaling (CAS). This effectively renders the lowest bit of the 8 speech bits unusable for data transmission, and so a 56 kbit/s line used only 7 of the 8 data bits in each sample period to send data, thus giving a data rate of 8000 Hz × 7 bits = 56 kbit/s.

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This article is based on material taken from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing prior to 1 November 2008 and incorporated under the "relicensing" terms of the GFDL, version 1.3 or later.