The Frobenius endomorphism with finite fields

The Frobenius endomorphism is defined as:

\Phi(x)=x^p

where p is the characteristic of the ring you’re working with. Simple, right?

If you’re working with a field with prime order, then Frobenius is actually the identity map. Since the order of the multiplicative subgroup is p, when you raise to the power of p you get back to x due to Fermat’s little theorem. Things get more interesting when you’re working with a extension field (i.e. a field which order is a prime power).

I’m studying pairings for my master’s degree and the Frobenius endomorphism appears all the time in their computation. For example, you need to do a “final exponentation” which can be split in multiple exponentiations, and some of them are to the power of p. This is good because powering to p is “easy” due to Frobenius, or at least all the papers I read said so. But for a while I couldn’t see why, and that’s the reason I’m posting this. It’s really easy; it’s just not that obvious to see why.

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Visualizing group structure with colored addition/multiplication tables

When working with finite fields, if the number of elements is a prime power p^m with m > 1, you can represent the elements as polynomials with degree m-1 and do the field addition and multiplication modulo a irreducible polynomial with degree m.

The field GF(5) is composed by the numbers 0 to 4. We don’t need to represent its elements as polynomials since m=1. Addition is done modulo 5 and multiplication also modulo 5. So 2 + 3 = 0; 4 * 2 = 3; and so on. This is the addition table for GF(5):

Multiplicative table of integers modulo 5

The rows, top down, represent 0 to 4. The columns, right to left, represent 0 to 4. Each square is the result of the addition of the respective numbers in the row / column it belongs to. Black is 0, purple is 1, red is 2, orange is 3, yellow is 4.

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