Exchange of Limits: Why Iterative Decoding Works
We consider communication over binary-input memoryless output-symmetric channels using low-density parity-check codes and message-passing decoding. The asymptotic (in the length) performance of such a combination for a fixed number of iterations is given by density evolution. Letting the number of iterations tend to infinity we get the density evolution (DE) threshold, the largest channel parameter so that the bit error probability tends to zero as a function of the iterations. In practice, we often work with short codes and perform a large number of iterations. It is, therefore, interesting to consider what happens if in the standard analysis we exchange the order in which the blocklength and the number of iterations diverge to infinity. In particular, we can ask whether both limits give the same threshold. Although empirical observations strongly suggest that the exchange of limits is valid for all channel parameters, we limit our discussion to channel parameters below the DE threshold. Specifically, we show that as long as the message reliabilities are bounded and other technical conditions are met, the bit error probability vanishes up to a nontrivial threshold regardless of how the limit is taken. This threshold is equal to the DE threshold when the minimum degree of the variable nodes is at least five and strictly less than the DE threshold for smaller degrees.