Capacity of a Communication Channel

by Robert Gowers, Roger Hill, Sami Al-Izzi, Timothy Pollington and Keith Briggs

from Boyd and Vandenberghe, Convex Optimization, exercise 4.57 pages 207-8

Convex optimization can be used to find the channel capacity \(C\) of a discrete memoryless channel. Consider a communication channel with input \(X(t) \in \{1,2,...,n\}\) and output \(Y(t) \in \{1,2,...m\}\). This means that the random variables \(X\) and \(Y\) can take \(n\) and \(m\) different values, respectively.

In a discrete memoryless channel, the relation between the input and the output is given by the transition probability:

\(p_{ij} = \mathbb{P}(Y(t)=i | X(t)=j)\)

These transition probabilities form the channel transition matrix \(P\), with \(P \in \mathbb{R}^{m\times n}\).

Assume that \(X\) has a probability distribution denoted by \(x \in \mathbb{R}^n\), meaning that:

\(x_j = \mathbb{P}(X(t) = j) \quad j \in \{1,...,n\}\).

From Shannon, the channel capacity is given by the maximum possible mutual information \(I\) between \(X\) and \(Y\):

\(C = \sup_x I(X;Y)\)


\(I(X;Y) = -\sum_{i=1}^{m} y_i \log_2y_i + \sum_{j=1}^{n}\sum_{i=1}^{m}x_j p_{ij}\log_2p_{ij}\)

Given that \(x\log x\) is convex for \(x \geq 0\), we can formulate this as a convex optimization problem:

minimise \(-I(X;Y)\)

subject to \(\sum_{i=1}^{n}x_i = 1 \quad x \succeq 0 \quad\) since \(x\) describes a probability

Due to the entropy function in CVXPY, this can be written quite easily in DCP.

#!/usr/bin/env python3
# @author: R. Gowers, S. Al-Izzi, T. Pollington, R. Hill & K. Briggs

import cvxpy as cp
import numpy as np
import math
from scipy.special import xlogy
def channel_capacity(n, m, P, sum_x=1):
    Boyd and Vandenberghe, Convex Optimization, exercise 4.57 page 207
    Capacity of a communication channel.

    We consider a communication channel, with input X(t)∈{1,..,n} and
    output Y(t)∈{1,...,m}, for t=1,2,... .The relation between the
    input and output is given statistically:
    p_(i,j) = ℙ(Y(t)=i|X(t)=j), i=1,..,m  j=1,...,n

    The matrix P ∈ ℝ^(m*n) is called the channel transition matrix, and
    the channel is called a discrete memoryless channel. Assuming X has a
    probability distribution denoted x ∈ ℝ^n, i.e.,
    x_j = ℙ(X=j), j=1,...,n

    The mutual information between X and Y is given by
    ∑(∑(x_j p_(i,j)log_2(p_(i,j)/∑(x_k p_(i,k)))))
    Then channel capacity C is given by
    C = sup I(X;Y).
    With a variable change of y = Px this becomes
    I(X;Y)=  c^T x - ∑(y_i log_2 y_i)
    where c_j = ∑(p_(i,j)log_2(p_(i,j)))

    # n is the number of different input values
    # m is the number of different output values
    if n*m == 0:
        print('The range of both input and output values must be greater than zero')
        return 'failed', np.nan, np.nan

    # x is probability distribution of the input signal X(t)
    x = cp.Variable(shape=n)

    # y is the probability distribution of the output signal Y(t)
    # P is the channel transition matrix
    y = P@x

    # I is the mutual information between x and y
    c = np.sum(np.array((xlogy(P, P) / math.log(2))), axis=0)
    I = c@x + cp.sum(cp.entr(y) / math.log(2))

    # Channel capacity maximised by maximising the mutual information
    obj = cp.Maximize(I)
    constraints = [cp.sum(x) == sum_x,x >= 0]

    # Form and solve problem
    prob = cp.Problem(obj,constraints)
    if prob.status=='optimal':
        return prob.status, prob.value, x.value
        return prob.status, np.nan, np.nan


In this example we consider a communication channel with two possible inputs and outputs, so \(n = m = 2\). The channel transition matrix we use in this case is:

\(P = \pmatrix{0.75,0.25\\0.25,0.75}\)

Note that the columns of \(P\) must sum to 1 and all elements of \(P\) must be positive.

n = 2
m = 2
P = np.array([[0.75,0.25],
stat, C, x = channel_capacity(n, m, P)
print('Problem status: ',stat)
print('Optimal value of C = {:.4g}'.format(C))
print('Optimal variable x = \n', x)
Problem status:  optimal
Optimal value of C = 0.1887
Optimal variable x =
 [0.5 0.5]