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Why Do Block Length and Delay Behave Differently if Feedback Is Present?

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1 Author(s)
Anant Sahai ; Univ. of California at Berkeley, Berkeley

For output-symmetric discrete memoryless channels (DMCs) at even moderately high rates, fixed-block-length communication systems show no improvements in their error exponents with feedback. This paper studies systems with fixed end-to-end delay and shows that feedback generally provides dramatic gains in the error exponents. A new upper bound (the uncertainty-focusing bound) is given on the probability of symbol error in a fixed-delay communication system with feedback. This bound turns out to have a form similar to Viterbi's bound used for the block error probability of convolutional codes as a function of the fixed constraint length. The uncertainty-focusing bound is shown to be asymptotically achievable with noiseless feedback for erasure channels as well as for any output-symmetric DMC that has strictly positive zero-error capacity. Furthermore, it can be achieved in a delay-universal (anytime) fashion even if the feedback itself is delayed by a small amount. Finally, it is shown that for end-to-end delay, it is generally possible at high rates to beat the sphere-packing bound for general DMCs - thereby providing a counterexample to a conjecture of Pinsker.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Information Theory  (Volume:54 ,  Issue: 5 )