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Are You Data Confused? Data Measurements Explained - Roscom

Are You Data Confused? Data Measurements Explained

This blog can be used as a quick reference guide for anyone who would like to know more about data unit measurements. We are going to discuss some of the considerations to make when discussing data and the importance of using the correct unit abbreviations when publishing bundle sizes to the consumer.

This page contains a useful data unit comparison table along with some tips to avoid being caught out.

The Challenge                                                                                                                                

The immediate difficulty for most is that data is a technical subject and unlike minutes or seconds it is not really something a human can naturally or tangibly understand. This is why in mobile phone stores you will sometimes see a data conversion chart, where a bundle might be converted into ‘minutes of browsing’, or ‘minutes of streaming’. This ‘easy-to-grasp’ method however does have some accuracy issues and is more of a guesstimate due to there being so many variables.

Due to a misunderstanding, or the slip of a finger on a keyboard, the wrong data unit can accidentally be documented. The difference between 1GB and a 1GiB, is over 7% bytes in total, so if the wrong unit were used when describing a 1GB bundle it would make quite a difference. If a monthly bill was overcharged by 7% then most people would notice, however when it comes to data, most consumers have no idea what they are getting.

Regulations could also be infringed, for example the Ofcom Metering and Billing Direction in Annex 2 section 3.3 states that data volume should be measured as accurately as ‘±100 kB or ±0.01% (whichever is less stringent)’. Therefore a mistake in the unit abbreviation documented could easily breach this data accuracy threshold.”

Comparing Units

The table below highlights the differences in bytes between the units of measure. Please note the significant capitalisation of the abbreviations and the impact this has on the byte counts.

Data Measurements Compared Megabyte vs Mebibyte

Bits or Bytes?

  • kb (lowercase) means kilobit (kb). A kb is one eighth the size of kB’s (kilobytes), so be careful with capitalisation.
  • When home broadband speeds are published, they tend to be reported on in bits e.g. 80 Mbps (megabits per second) not bytes.
  • The notation for quantity-per-unit-time can vary, so keep an eye out for the differences. E.g. megabits-per-second is usually Mbps, but other unit times are usually written Mb/min, Mb/hour etc.
  • Important note: reputable published websites and documents can easily get this wrong. For example, scrutinise if the published offer is talking Mbps or MBps – capital B usually indicates bytes, lower b usually indicates bits, but operators get this wrong in documentation all the time and is therefore often ambiguous. It is worth double checking, as the person in charge of updating the website or brochure might not know the difference or have slipped with a capital letter.

Missing Bytes

Our test call generators record every byte uploaded and download during a data session. This independent record of bytes proves invaluable for identifying exactly what the mobile data network are recording.

Our Osprey™ system breaks down the downloaded content into all the data forms, so that analysis and tracing can determine what bytes are being missed.

We’ve noticed that often data switches often come pre-configured with metering rules which may or may not record every byte. Could your default settings be losing you bytes and therefore revenue?

We hope you all find this useful.

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