The original Luby Transform (LT) coding scheme is extended to account for data transmissions where some information symbols in a message block are more important than others. Prioritized LT codes provide unequal error protection (UEP) of data on an erasure channel by modifying the original LT encoder. The prioritized algorithm improves high-priority data protection without penalizing low-priority data recovery. Moreover, low-latency decoding is also obtained for high-priority data due to fast encoding. Prioritized LT codes only require a slight change in the original encoding algorithm, and no changes at all at the decoder. Hence, with a small complexity increase in the LT encoder, an improved UEP and low-decoding latency performance for high-priority data can be achieved.
LT encoding partitions a data stream into fixed-sized message blocks each with a constant number of information symbols. To generate a code symbol from the information symbols in a message, the Robust-Soliton probability distribution is first applied in order to determine the number of information symbols to be used to compute the code symbol. Then, the specific information symbols are chosen uniform randomly from the message block. Finally, the selected information symbols are XORed to form the code symbol. The Prioritized LT code construction includes an additional restriction that code symbols formed by a relatively small number of XORed information symbols select some of these information symbols from the pool of high-priority data. Once high-priority data are fully covered, encoding continues with the conventional LT approach where code symbols are generated by selecting information symbols from the entire message block including all different priorities. Therefore, if code symbols derived from high-priority data experience an unusual high number of erasures, Prioritized LT codes can still reliably recover both high- and low-priority data. This hybrid approach decides not only “how to encode” but also “what to encode” to achieve UEP. Another advantage of the priority encoding process is that the majority of high-priority data can be decoded sooner since only a small number of code symbols are required to reconstruct high-priority data. This approach increases the likelihood that high-priority data is decoded first over low-priority data.
The Prioritized LT code scheme achieves an improvement in high-priority data decoding performance as well as overall information recovery without penalizing the decoding of low-priority data, assuming high-priority data is no more than half of a message block. The cost is in the additional complexity required in the encoder. If extra computation resource is available at the transmitter, image, voice, and video transmission quality in terrestrial and space communications can benefit from accurate use of redundancy in protecting data with varying priorities.