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In coding theory, the Singleton bound, named after Richard Collom Singleton, is a relatively crude upper bound on the size of an arbitrary block code with block length , size and minimum distance .

Statement of the boundEdit

The minimum distance of a set   of codewords of length   is defined as


where   is the Hamming distance between   and  . The expression   represents the maximum number of possible codewords in a  -ary block code of length   and minimum distance  .

Then the Singleton bound states that



First observe that the number of  -ary words of length   is  , since each letter in such a word may take one of   different values, independently of the remaining letters.

Now let   be an arbitrary  -ary block code of minimum distance  . Clearly, all codewords   are distinct. If we puncture the code by deleting the first   letters of each codeword, then all resulting codewords must still be pairwise different, since all of the original codewords in   have Hamming distance at least   from each other. Thus the size of the altered code is the same as the original code.

The newly obtained codewords each have length


and thus, there can be at most   of them. Since   was arbitrary, this bound must hold for the largest possible code with these parameters, thus:[1]


Linear codesEdit

If   is a linear code with block length  , dimension   and minimum distance   over the finite field with   elements, then the maximum number of codewords is   and the Singleton bound implies:


so that


which is usually written as[2]


In the linear code case a different proof of the Singleton bound can be obtained by observing that rank of the parity check matrix is  .[3] Another simple proof follows from observing that the rows of any generator matrix in standard form have weight at most  .


The usual citation given for this result is Singleton (1964), but according to Welsh (1988, p. 72) the result can be found in a 1953 paper of Komamiya.[4]

MDS codesEdit

Linear block codes that achieve equality in the Singleton bound are called MDS (maximum distance separable) codes. Examples of such codes include codes that have only two codewords (the all-zero word and the all-one word, having thus minimum distance  ), codes that use the whole of   (minimum distance 1), codes with a single parity symbol (minimum distance 2) and their dual codes. These are often called trivial MDS codes.

In the case of binary alphabets, only trivial MDS codes exist.[5][6]

Examples of non-trivial MDS codes include Reed-Solomon codes and their extended versions.[7][8]

MDS codes are an important class of block codes since, for a fixed   and  , they have the greatest error correcting and detecting capabilities. There are several ways to characterize MDS codes:[9]

Theorem: Let   be a linear [ ] code over  . The following are equivalent:
  •   is an MDS code.
  • Any   columns of a generator matrix for   are linearly independent.
  • Any   columns of a parity check matrix for   are linearly independent.
  •   is an MDS code.
  • If   is a generator matrix for   in standard form, then every square submatrix of   is nonsingular.
  • Given any   coordinate positions, there is a (minimum weight) codeword whose support is precisely these positions.

The last of these characterizations permits, by using the MacWilliams identities, an explicit formula for the complete weight distribution of an MDS code.[10]

Theorem: Let   be a linear [ ] MDS code over  . If   denotes the number of codewords in   of weight  , then

Arcs in projective geometryEdit

The linear independence of the columns of a generator matrix of an MDS code permits a construction of MDS codes from objects in finite projective geometry. Let   be the finite projective space of (geometric) dimension   over the finite field  . Let   be a set of points in this projective space represented with homogeneous coordinates. Form the   matrix   whose columns are the homogeneous coordinates of these points. Then,[11]

Theorem:   is a (spatial)  -arc if and only if   is the generator matrix of an   MDS code over  .

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ling & Xing 2004, p. 93
  2. ^ Roman 1992, p. 175
  3. ^ Pless 1998, p. 26
  4. ^ Komamiya, Y. (1953), "Application of logical mathematics to information theory", Proc. 3rd Japan. Nat. Cong. Appl. Math.: 437
  5. ^ Vermani 1996, Proposition 9.2
  6. ^ Ling & Xing 2004, p. 94 Remark 5.4.7
  7. ^ MacWilliams & Sloane 1977, Ch. 11
  8. ^ Ling & Xing 2004, p. 94
  9. ^ Roman 1992, p. 237, Theorem 5.3.7
  10. ^ Roman 1992, p. 240
  11. ^ Bruen, A.A.; Thas, J.A.; Blokhuis, A. (1988), "On M.D.S. codes, arcs in PG(n,q), with q even, and a solution of three fundamental problems of B. Segre", Invent. Math., 92: 441–459, doi:10.1007/bf01393742


Further readingEdit