Flexible Multilevel Coding with Concatenated Polar-Staircase Codes for M-QAM

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In this work, a multilevel coding (MLC) based coded modulation scheme with two degrees of freedom in rate flexibility is proposed and compared with a bit-interleaved coded modulation (BICM) scheme from a performance versus complexity perspective. The proposed MLC scheme is based on a rate flexible inner soft-decision polar code and utilizes an outer hard-decision staircase code structure as in the 400ZR concatenated forward error-correcting code. The performance of the MLC scheme is investigated for a range of inner code lengths, inner decoder list sizes, and signaling with 16 and 64 quadrature amplitude modulation, respectively. The MLC is designed such that a portion of the staircase encoded bits can bypass the inner code. The number of required inner soft-decision decoders can thus be reduced, thereby saving computational complexity. The proposed MLC scheme simultaneously offers up to a 53.7% reduction in the number of inner decoders and up to 0.55 dB of performance improvement when compared with the similar BICM approach.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIEEE Transactions on Communications
Number of pages12
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Polar codes
  • Staircase codes
  • Multilevel coding
  • Rate flexibility
  • Data center interconnects

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