We consider the problem of network coding across three unicast sessions over a directed acyclic graph, where the sender and receiver of each unicast session are both connected to the network via a single edge of unit capacity. We consider a network model in which the middle of the network can only perform random linear network coding, and restrict our approaches to precoding-based linear schemes, where the senders use precoding matrices to encode source symbols. We adapt a precoding-based interference alignment technique, originally developed for the wireless interference channel, to construct a precoding-based linear scheme, which we refer to as precoding-based network alignment scheme (PBNA).

A primary difference between this setting and the wireless interference channel is that the network topology can introduce dependencies among the elements of the transfer matrix, which we refer to as coupling relations, and can potentially affect the achievable rate of PBNA. We identify all these coupling relations and interpret them in terms of network topology. We then present polynomial-time algorithms to check the presence of these coupling relations in a particular network. Finally, we show that, depending on the coupling relations present in the network, the optimal symmetric rate achieved by precoding-based linear scheme can take only three possible values, all of which can be achieved by PBNA.