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Variable-length codes and the Fano metric

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1 Author(s)

It is shown that the metric proposed originally by Fano for sequential decoding is precisely the required statistic for minimum-error-probability decoding of variable-length codes. The analysis shows further that the "natural" choice of bias in the metric is the code rate and gives insight into why the Fano metric has proved to be the best practical choice in sequential decoding. The recently devised Jelinek-Zigangirov "stack algorithm" is shown to be a natural consequence of this interpretation of the Fano metric. Finally, it is shown that the elimination of the bias in the "truncated" portion of the code tree gives a slight reduction in average computation at the sacrifice of increased error probability.

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Information Theory, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:18 ,  Issue: 1 )