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Parameter selection

In this section we give some basic advice on how to parameterize your code. As a general disclaimer, this does not guarantee any specific performance from the code, but means that the parameters are reasonable.

The following is based on rough back-of-the-envelope calculation, and simplifies a lot of things. For more in-depth analysis and help please contact support@steinwurf.com.


If you see an unfamiliar term used, try to visit the Definitions section and you should find a description.

We will look at how to specify two settings:

  1. The coding rate
  2. The coding window

Coding rate (n,k)

The coding rate is often denoted (n,k) where n is the total number of symbols to send out of which k is the original data and r = n - k is the repair symbols. The coding rate is computed as k/n.

As a rule of thumb, we need to specify the coding rate lower than one minus the loss rate.

Example 1: rate selection

  • Worst-case packet loss rate: 50%
  • Then the coding rate should also be lower than (1-0.5) = 0.5 e.g. n=2 and k=1 our rate is then k/n = 1/2 which is just enough to cope with the packet loss (in the worst case). In practice, you would probably want to lower the rate.

Example 2: rate selection

  • Worst-case packet loss rate: 25%
  • Then the coding rate should also be lower than (1-0.25) = 0.75 e.g. n=3 and k=2 our rate is then k/n = 2/3 = 0.66 which should be enough to cope with the packet loss.

If we want to minimize delay we should try to specify n and k as low as possible. Since this means we will generate repair traffic more often.

Selecting (n,k)

In general, we should try to minimize (n,k) but still within a comfortable margin of one minus the packet loss rate. With a smaller (n,k) parameter, we can interleave repair packets more often, and therefore the decoder will more often have the chance to decode and release a symbol.

If we select a coding rate of (n=3,k=2), this means that after every k=2 packets we send r=1 repair packet.

This has the same coding rate as a (n=6,k=4), but here we send two repair packets after every four packets. We therefore wait more before generating repair.

Coding window

Essentially, the coding window can be determined based on two different considerations:

  1. In a delay-constrained scenario, it does not make sense to keep including source symbols that are “too old”.
  2. If we are not constrained by delay, the computational requirements and the memory consumption of the algorithm become the limiting factors.

In the latter case, the right parameter combination heavily depends on the target platform (e.g. high-end server or limited embedded device). Depending on the use-case, benchmarking may be a good way to find a suitable set of parameters for the given platform. In other cases please contact support@steinwurf.com.

For the delay-constrained use-case, it is usually possible to determine the coding window based on the delay requirement.

Encoding window

Say we have an application that generates a fixed stream of 1 MBps and has a latency requirement of 60 ms. If we choose our symbol size to 1400 bytes, then we find that our coding window can be:

\[w = (1000000 * 60 / 1000) / 1400 = 42.8\]

Decoding window

The decoder receives symbols encoded with the encoder’s window. But, it may itself choose to have a larger decoding window. This might be advantageous, because even though a symbol is now considered “too” old, it may still be useful for decoding symbols that are still within the deadline.

As a general rule of thumb, specifying the decoding window as two times the encoding window works well in most cases.


If the decoding window is smaller than the encoding window the decoder will not be able to use any repair symbols.