An information-theoretic characterization of channels that die

Lav R. Varshney, Sanjoy K. Mitter, Vivek K. Goyal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given the possibility of communication systems failing catastrophically, we investigate limits to communicating over channels that fail at random times. These channels are finite-state semi-Markov channels. We show that communication with arbitrarily small probability of error is not possible. Making use of results in finite blocklength channel coding, we determine sequences of blocklengths that optimize transmission volume communicated at fixed maximum message error probabilities. We provide a partial ordering of communication channels. A dynamic programming formulation is used to show the structural result that channel state feedback does not improve performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6198891
Pages (from-to)5711-5724
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Information Theory
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Channel coding
  • communication channels
  • dynamic programming
  • finite blocklength regime
  • reliability theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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