Why error-only decoding has high miscorrection rate for small parity?

I've a question regarding to a statement written in this paper, "Generalized Integrated Interleaved Codes". The paper mentions that erasure decoding of Reed-Solomon (RS) code incurs no miscorrection, but error-only decoding of RS code incurs a high miscorrection rate if the correction capability is too low.

From my understanding, I think the difference between erasure decoding and error-only decoding is that erasure decoding does not require to compute the error locations. On the other hand, error-only decoding requires to know the error locations, which can be computed by Berlekamp–Massey algorithm. I wonder if the miscorrection for error-only decoding comes from computing the wrong error locations? If yes, why the miscorrection rate is related to the correction capability of the RS code?


  • miscorrection for error-only decoding comes from computing the wrong error locations

    Yes. For example, consider an RS code with 6 parities, which can correct 3 errors. Assume that 4 errors have occurred, and that a 3 error correction attempt created an additional 3 errors, for a total of 7 errors. It will produce a valid codeword, but the wrong codeword.

    There are situations where the probability of miscorrection can be lowered. If the message is a shortened message, say 64 bytes of data and 6 parities for a total of 70 bytes, then if a 3 error case produces an invalid location, miscorrection can be avoided. In this case, the odds of 3 random locations being valid is (70/255)^3 ~= .02 (2%).

    Another way to avoid miscorrection is to not use all of the parities for correction. With 6 parities, the correction could be limited to 2 errors, leaving 2 parities for detection purposes. Or use 7 parities, for 3 error correction, with 1 parity used for detection.

    Follow up based on comments:

    First note that there are 3 decoders that can be used for BCH view Reed Solomon: PGZ (Peterson Gorenstein Zierler) matrix decoder, BKM (Berlekamp Massey) discrepancy decoder , and Sugiyama's extended Euclid decoder. PGZ has greater time complexity O((n-k)^3) than BKM or Euclid, so most implementations use BKM or Euclid. You can read a bit more about these decoders here:

    Getting back to 6 parities, 4 errors. All valid RS(n+6, n) codewords differ from each other by at least 7 elements. If 4 of the elements of a message are in error, there may be a valid codeword that differs by only 3 more elements from that message with 4 error elements, and in this case, all 3 decoders will find that the message differs from a valid codeword by 3 elements, and "correct" those 3 elements to produce a valid codeword, but in this case the wrong valid codeword, which will differ by 7 elements from the original codeword. With 5 elements in error, a 2 or 3 error miscorrection could occur, and with 6 or more elements in error, a 1 or 2 or 3 error miscorrection could occur.

    Invalid location - consider a RS code based on GF(2^8), which allows for a message size up to 255 bytes. Valid locations for a 255 byte message are 0 to 254. If the message size is less than 255 bytes, for example 64 data + 6 parity = 70 bytes, then locations 0 to 69 are valid, while locations 70 to 254 are invalid. In what would otherwise be a case of miscorrection, if a calculated location is out of range, then the decoder has detected an uncorrectable message, rather than miscorrect it. Assume a garbled message and that the decoder generates 3 random locations in the range 0 to 254, the probability of all 3 being in the range 0 to 69 is (70/255)^3.

    Another case where miscorrection is avoided is when the number of distinct roots of the error locator polynomial does not match the degree of the polynomial. Consider a 3 error case with generated error locator polynomial x^3 + a x^2 + b x + c. If there are more than 3 errors in the message, then the generated polynomial may have less than 3 distinct roots, such as a double root, or zero roots, or ... , in which case miscorrection is avoided and the message is detected as being uncorrectable.