Nonlinear index coding outperforming the linear optimum

Eyal Lubetzky, Uri Stav

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The following source coding problem was introduced by Birk and Kol: a sender holds a word χ ∈ {0, 1}n, and wishes to broadcast a codeword to n receivers, R1,..., Rn. The receiver Ri is interested in xi, and has prior side information comprising some subset of the n bits. This corresponds to a directed graph G on n, where ij is an edge iff Ri knows the bit xj. An index code for G is an encoding scheme which enables each Ri to always reconstruct xi, given his side information. The minimal word length of an index code was studied by Bar-Yossef, Birk, Jayram, and Kol (FOCS'06). They introduced a graph parameter, minrk2(G), which completely characterizes the length of an optimal linear index code for G. They showed that in various cases linear codes attain the optimal word length, and conjectured that linear index coding is in fact always optimal. In this work, we disprove the main conjecture of Bar-Yossef, Birk, Jayram, and Kol in the following strong sense: for any ε > 0 and sufficiently large n, there is an n-vertex graph G so that every linear index code for G requires codewords of length at least n1-c, and yet a nonlinear index code for G has aword length of nc. This is achieved by an explicit construction, which extends Alon's variant of the celebrated Ramsey construction of Frankl and Wilson. In addition, we study optimal index codes in various, less restricted, natural models, and prove several related properties of the graph parameter (G).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3544-3551
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Transactions on Information Theory
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2009


  • Index coding
  • Linear and nonlinear source coding
  • Ramsey constructions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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