What is Encoder and Decoder in digital electronics ?

In digital electronics and information theory, an "encoder" and a "decoder" are devices or components used to convert data from one format or representation to another. Encoders transform data into a different format for efficient representation or transmission, while decoders reverse the process to retrieve the original data. They play a crucial role in digital communication systems, data storage and digital signal processing (DSP) applications.

In wireless communication systems, encoders and decoders play a critical role in the physical layer to ensure reliable transmission of data over radio waves.


An encoder is a device or circuit that takes an input signal, typically in the form of data or information, and converts it into a different format or code. The purpose of an encoder is to represent the input information in a more efficient or compact way, or to prepare it for transmission or storage. Encoders are often used to convert analog signals into digital format or to compress data. They can also be used to create error-detection codes for data integrity purposes.

Examples of encoders are as follows.
• Digital encoders, which convert an analog voltage or position into a digital representation.
• Data encoders, which convert data from one format to another (e.g., ASCII to binary).
• Compression algorithms, which encode data to reduce its size for storage or transmission (e.g., JPEG for images or MP3 for audio).

Encoder Decoder

In Wireless communication system, encoder is the module which changes the stream of input bytes into output stream of bytes with added redundant bytes. Encoder module adds the redundancy as well as change the formats of original data. Figure-1 depicts the encoder and decoder process and typical encoders and decoders available.

Examples of Encoder in wireless physical layer : Convolution encoder, CTC (Convolutional Turbo Coder) encoder, LDPC (Low Density Parity Check) encoder, differential encoder. The main function of these modules is known as Forward Error Correction.

A convolutional encoder is often used in wireless communication systems to add redundancy to the data before transmission. The Viterbi decoder is used to decode the convolutionally encoded data at the receiver.

Turbo encoding is a more advanced technique that involves the use of two or more convolutional encoders in parallel. Turbo decoding involves the use of iterative algorithms at the receiver to decode the received signals.


A decoder is the counterpart of an encoder. It takes an encoded or compressed signal and converts it back to its original format or representation. Decoders are used to retrieve and interpret data that has been encoded or compressed. Decoders are commonly used in various applications such as data transmission, data storage, and multimedia playback.

Examples of decoders are as follows.
• Video decoders, which take a compressed video stream (e.g., MPEG) and decode it for display.
• Audio decoders, which decode compressed audio data (e.g., MP3) for playback.
• Binary decoders, which convert binary data into various outputs based on specific binary patterns (e.g., binary-to-decimal decoders).

In Wireless communication system, decoder module utilizes redundant information present in the erroneous received vector to recover the original information bits which have been transmitted.

Examples of Decoder : Viterbi decoder, CTC decoder, LDPC decoder, differential decoder

Difference between encoder and decoder

Let us compare encoder and decoder and derive differences between them in tabular form.

Parameters Encoder Decoder
Function Converts input data into a different format or code for efficient representation, transmission or storage Converts encoded or compressed data back to its original format
Purpose Prepares data for transmission or storage by adding redundancy or converting to a more efficient format Retrieves and interprets data that has been encoded, compressed or prepared for transmission.
Input Accepts raw or unencoded data as input Accepts encoded, compressed or prepared data as input
Output Produces encoded , compressed or modified data as output Produces original data or representation of it as output
Common use cases Data compression encoders (e.g. JPEG for images), Error correcting encoders (e.g. convolutional, LDPC for wireless communication) Data compression decoders (e.g. JPEG for images), error correcting decoders (e.g. viterbi, turbo, LDPC for wireless communication)
Inverse operation The inverse operation of encoding is decoding. The inverse operation of decoding is encoding.
Goal To efficiently represent or transmit data To recover or interpret data
Examples Huffman encoder for text compression, Convolutional encoder for wireless communication Huffman decoder for text decompression, Viterbi decoder for wireless communication

Conclusion : In summary, the key difference between encoder and decoder lies in their functions. The encoders prepare data for transmission, compression, or error correction, whereas decoders retrieve and interpret encoded, compressed, or transmitted data. Encoders typically take raw data as input, while decoders handle encoded or prepared data, aiming to efficiently represent data for transmission (encoder) or recover and interpret it (decoder).

Encoder Implementation

convolution encoder

➨Refer convolution encoder implementation and MATLAB code as per above diagram. It produces 3 bits output for every one input bit. Hence data output size will be three times than input data size. Puncturing is used in order to remove the bits from desired positions to increase the bit rate.

What is Difference between

RF and Wireless Terminologies