Erroneous decoding, probability of

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One of the possible measures for characterizing the accuracy of information reproduction over a communication channel (see also Information, exactness of reproducibility of). For the transmission of information from a source which has different possible values with probability distribution , , a certain communication channel is used. Then for fixed methods of coding and decoding (see also Information, transmission of), the probability of erroneous decoding , , is defined by

where is the decoded message at the channel output. The variable quantity

is called the mean probability of erroneous decoding. The study of the optimal probability of erroneous decoding, , defined by

is of particular interest. The infimum is taken over all possible methods of coding and decoding. Owing to the difficulty of obtaining an accurate expression for , which is caused by the fact that optimal coding methods are usually unknown, the study of the asymptotic behaviour of when the length of the message in the channel increases is of interest. More precisely, the following situation is studied. Let a segment of length in a communication channel with discrete time be used, and put . The asymptotic behaviour of has to be studied when and (this means that the length of the message increases, while its transmission rate remains constant). If the channel is a homogeneous memoryless channel with discrete time and if the spaces and of values of the components of the input and output signals are finite, then the following upper and lower bounds for are known:


where and tend to zero with increasing , while the functions and are defined as follows:



Here, is an arbitrary probability distribution on , , , , while and , , are the components of the input and output signals of the memoryless channel being considered. It is known that and , defined by the formulas (2) and (3), are positive, convex from below, monotone decreasing functions of when , where is the transmission rate of the channel (cf. Transmission rate of a channel), and that when ; here is a quantity defined by the transition matrix of the channel and called the critical speed of the given memoryless channel. Thus, for values , , the main terms of the upper and lower bounds (1) for coincide asymptotically, hence for this range of the exact value of the reliability function of the channel, , defined by

is known. For values of , , the exact value of for arbitrary memoryless channels is still unknown (1983), although the bounds (1) can still be improved. The exponential character of decrease of has been proved for a very broad class of channels.


[1] R. Gallager, "Information theory and reliable communication" , 1–2 , Wiley (1968–1972)
[2] A.A. Feinstein, "Foundations of information theory" , McGraw-Hill (1958)
How to Cite This Entry:
Erroneous decoding, probability of. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:,_probability_of&oldid=14369
This article was adapted from an original article by R.L. DobrushinV.V. Prelov (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article