Delay and coding in multiple-user communications

In multiple-user communications, the bursty nature of the packet arrival times cannot be divorced from the analysis of the transmission process. However, in traditional information theory the random arrival times are smoothed out by appropriated source coding and no consideration is made for the end-to-end delay. In this thesis, using tools from network theory, we investigate simple models that consider the end-to-end delay and/or the variability of the packet arrivals as important parameters, while staying in a information theoretic framework. First, we simplify the problem and focus on the transmission of a bursty source over a single-user channel. We introduce a new measure of channel features that enable us to incorporate the possibility to code among several packets in a scheduling problem. In this setup, we look for policies that minimize the average packet delay. Assuming that the packets are independent and sufficiently large to perform capacity achieving coding, we then consider the problem of allocating rates among a finite number of users communicating through a multiple-user channel. Following the previous work in the context of multiple-access channel, we formulate a scheduling problem in which the rate of each user is chosen from the capacity region of the multiple-user channel. Here, the goal is to find a scheduling policy that minimizes the sum of the transmitter queue lengths, such a policy is called delay optimal. In particular settings, for the additive Gaussian multiple-access channel we show the delay optimality of the Longer Queue Higher Rate policy introduced by Yeh. And, when the users communicate through a symmetric broadcast channel, we propose and show the delay optimality of a Best User Highest Possible Rate policy, among a large class of admissible policies. Finally, in the last part of this thesis, we look at the multiple-user channel coding problem from the perspective of the receivers. By measuring the transmission rates at the receivers, we are able to define variable length codes and to characterize the region of achievable rates when the receivers can decode their intended messages at different instants of time. For the two-user degraded broadcast channel and for the two-user multiple-access channel, we show that the gain in using variable length codes essentially comes from the possibility for the receivers to decode the transmitted messages in non-overlapping periods of time.

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