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We study a distributed antenna system where L antenna terminals (ATs) are connected to a central processor (CP) via digital error-free links of finite capacity R0, and serve K user terminals (UTs). This model has been widely investigated both for the uplink (UTs to CP) and for the downlink (CP to UTs), which are instances of the general multiple-access relay and broadcast relay networks. We contribute to the subject in the following ways: 1) For the uplink, we consider the recently proposed “compute and forward” (CoF) approach and examine the corresponding system optimization at finite SNR. 2) For the downlink, we propose a novel precoding scheme nicknamed “reverse compute and forward” (RCoF). 3) In both cases, we present low-complexity versions of CoF and RCoF based on standard scalar quantization at the receivers, that lead to discrete-input discrete-output symmetric memoryless channel models for which near-optimal performance can be achieved by standard single-user linear coding. 4) We provide extensive numerical results and finite SNR comparison with other “state of the art” information theoretic techniques, in scenarios including fading and shadowing. The proposed uplink and downlink system optimization focuses specifically on the ATs and UTs selection problem. In both cases, for a given set of transmitters, the goal consists of selecting a subset of the receivers such that the corresponding system matrix has full rank and the sum rate is maximized. We present low-complexity ATs and UTs selection schemes and demonstrate through Monte Carlo simulation that the proposed schemes essentially eliminate the problem of rank deficiency of the system matrix and greatly mitigate the noninteger penalty affecting CoF/RCoF at high SNR. Comparison with other state-of-the art information theoretic schemes, show competitive performance of the proposed approaches with significantly lower complexity.