Scaling Exponent of List Decoders With Applications to Polar Codes
Motivated by the significant performance gains which polar codes experience under successive cancellation list decoding, their scaling exponent is studied as a function of the list size. In particular, the error probability is fixed, and the tradeoff between the block length and back-off from capacity is analyzed. A lower bound is provided on the error probability under MAP decoding with list size L for any binary-input memoryless output-symmetric channel and for any class of linear codes such that their minimum distance is unbounded as the block length grows large. Then, it is shown that under MAP decoding, although the introduction of a list can significantly improve the involved constants, the scaling exponent itself, i.e., the speed at which capacity is approached, stays unaffected for any finite list size. In particular, this result applies to polar codes, since their minimum distance tends to infinity as the block length increases. A similar result is proved for genie-aided successive cancellation decoding when transmission takes place over the binary erasure channel, namely, the scaling exponent remains constant for any fixed number of helps from the genie. Note that since genie-aided successive cancellation decoding might be strictly worse than successive cancellation list decoding, the problem of establishing the scaling exponent of the latter remains open.