Error correction code

Scheme for controlling errors in data over noisy communication channels / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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In computing, telecommunication, information theory, and coding theory, forward error correction (FEC) or channel coding[1][2][3] is a technique used for controlling errors in data transmission over unreliable or noisy communication channels.

The central idea is that the sender encodes the message in a redundant way, most often by using an error correction code or error correcting code (ECC).[4][5] The redundancy allows the receiver not only to detect errors that may occur anywhere in the message, but often to correct a limited number of errors. Therefore a reverse channel to request re-transmission may not be needed. The cost is a fixed, higher forward channel bandwidth.

The American mathematician Richard Hamming pioneered this field in the 1940s and invented the first error-correcting code in 1950: the Hamming (7,4) code.[5]

FEC can be applied in situations where re-transmissions are costly or impossible, such as one-way communication links or when transmitting to multiple receivers in multicast. Long-latency connections also benefit; in the case of a satellite orbiting Uranus, retransmission due to errors can create a delay of five hours. FEC is widely used in modems and in cellular networks, as well.

FEC processing in a receiver may be applied to a digital bit stream or in the demodulation of a digitally modulated carrier. For the latter, FEC is an integral part of the initial analog-to-digital conversion in the receiver. The Viterbi decoder implements a soft-decision algorithm to demodulate digital data from an analog signal corrupted by noise. Many FEC decoders can also generate a bit-error rate (BER) signal which can be used as feedback to fine-tune the analog receiving electronics.

FEC information is added to mass storage (magnetic, optical and solid state/flash based) devices to enable recovery of corrupted data, and is used as ECC computer memory on systems that require special provisions for reliability.

The maximum proportion of errors or missing bits that can be corrected is determined by the design of the ECC, so different forward error correcting codes are suitable for different conditions. In general, a stronger code induces more redundancy that needs to be transmitted using the available bandwidth, which reduces the effective bit-rate while improving the received effective signal-to-noise ratio. The noisy-channel coding theorem of Claude Shannon can be used to compute the maximum achievable communication bandwidth for a given maximum acceptable error probability. This establishes bounds on the theoretical maximum information transfer rate of a channel with some given base noise level. However, the proof is not constructive, and hence gives no insight of how to build a capacity achieving code. After years of research, some advanced FEC systems like polar code[3] come very close to the theoretical maximum given by the Shannon channel capacity under the hypothesis of an infinite length frame.

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