Erdal Arikan’s groundbreaking work on channel polarization coding methods for achieving maximal channel capacity in digital communications has revolutionized information and communications theory by meeting the challenges of Shannon’s limit for determining the maximum rate that data can be sent with zero error. A culmination of over 20 years of research, in 2009 Arikan described the concept of channel polarization and a completely new, remarkably clear method of data coding for transmission over symmetric channels with binary input. Considered one of the most powerful developments in coding theory of the past decade, his discovery of using polar codes for error correction was a major step in determining the limit at which reliable and efficient transmission of data over noisy channels is possible. Enhancing the original application to binary-input channels, Arikan extended his codes to channels with arbitrary input size to enable broader applications. His framework has proven to be flexible and adaptable to the parameters of communication channels, allowing researchers to construct polar coding schemes for a large range of block lengths and information transmission rates. His polar codes also feature simple iterative schemes of data encoding and decoding to allow efficient hardware implementation. His work has also been extended to polar codes for channels that are not necessarily symmetric, dual polar codes for data compression, and polar codes for data hiding with information-theoretic security guarantees. Initially met with skepticism by practitioners due to major obstacles preventing their practical use, Arikan’s polar codes have evolved in a short time to become an integral component of emerging wireless standards for enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) control channels in 5G New Radio (NR) interfaces, with a major wireless company recently demonstrating 27 Gbps in 5G field-trial tests.
An IEEE Fellow and recipient of the 2013 IEEE W.R.G. Baker Award, Arikan is a professor with the Department of Electrical Engineering at Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey.