Spinal codes are a recently proposed capacity-achieving rateless code. While hardware encoding of spinal codes is straightforward, the design of an efficient, high-speed hardware decoder poses significant challenges. We present the first such decoder. By relaxing data dependencies inherent in the classic M-algorithm decoder, we obtain area and throughput competitive with 3GPP turbo codes as well as greatly reduced latency and complexity. The enabling architectural feature is a novel alpha-beta incremental approximate selection algorithm. We also present a method for obtaining hints which anticipate successful or failed decoding, permitting early termination and/or feedback-driven adaptation of the decoding parameters.
We have validated our implementation in FPGA with on-air testing. Provisional hardware synthesis suggests that a near-capacity implementation of spinal codes can achieve a throughput of 12.5 Mbps in a 65 nm technology while using substantially less area than competitive 3GPP turbo code implementations.