Fountain codes are currently employed for reliable and efficient transmission of information via erasure channels with unknown erasure rates. This correspondence introduces the notion of fountain capacity for arbitrary channels. In contrast to the conventional definition of rate, in the fountain setup the definition of rate penalizes the reception of symbols by the receiver rather than their transmission. Fountain capacity measures the maximum rate compatible with reliable reception regardless of the erasure pattern. We show that fountain capacity and Shannon capacity are equal for stationary memoryless channels. In contrast, Shannon capacity may exceed fountain capacity if the channel has memory or is not stationary.
Record created on 2008-01-25, modified on 2016-08-08