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On the capacity of a noiseless photon channel

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An expression is derived for the capacity of a noiseless photon channel as a function of bandwidth, carrier frequency, and average signal power. This expression is an extension of a formula derived by Gordon which is applicable in the limit of narrow bandwidth. By comparison of the two results, it is shown that Gordon's formula is highly accurate over a large range of bandwidth, and that significant deviations occur only when the average signal power is extremely small. The derivation is based on a model of transmitting photons at different frequencies, distinguishable to the limit of the Heisenberg principle, which allows distinguishable states to have the same energy. This degeneracy, which in the narrow-band limit is simply related to the time-bandwidth product, plays a role in the (maximum entropy) energy distributions. These distributions are shown to vary from noise-like (where the rms fluctuations exceed the mean value) to Poisson as the time-bandwidth product varies from unity (or nondegenerate) to infinity. For any degeneracy, the distribution is the discrete analog of its continuous (classical) counterpart. For infinite degeneracy, when photon frequencies may take a continuum of values, the channel capacity is achieved for a signal power spectral density which has the same form as the average energy of a quantized oscillator in thermal equilibrium. As a concluding result, it is shown that for a noiseless channel with fixed average power but without any frequency restrictions, there exists an upper bound to channel capacity which is proportional to the square root of the average signal power.

Published in:

Information Theory, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:13 ,  Issue: 2 )

Date of Publication:

April 1967

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