Feedback-Based Online Network Coding

J. K. Sundararajan, D. Shah, M. M├ędard, P. Sadeghi
IEEE Transactions on Information Theory, Volume 63, no. 10, pp. 6628-6649, October 2017

Current approaches to the practical implementation of network coding are batch-based, and often do not use feedback, except possibly to signal completion of a file download. In this paper, the various benefits of using feedback in a network coded system are studied. It is shown that network coding can be performed in a completely online manner, without the need for batches or generations, and that such online operation does not affect the throughput. Although these ideas are presented in a single-hop packet erasure broadcast setting, they naturally extend to more general lossy networks, which employ network coding in the presence of feedback. The impact of feedback on sender-side queue size and receiver-side decoding delay is studied in an asymptotic sense as the traffic load approaches capacity. Different notions of decoding delay are considered, including an order-sensitive notion, which assumes that packets are useful only when delivered in order. Strategies for adaptive coding based on feedback are presented. Our scheme achieves throughput optimality and asymptotically optimal sender queue size and is conjectured to achieve asymptotically optimal in-order delivery delay for any number of receivers. This paper may be viewed as a natural extension of Automatic Repeat reQuest to coded networks.